Dir: Riley Stearns
Character actor Leland Orser‘s Ansel Roth is one of the finest performances of the actors career and hands down one of the best of the year. No other actor commands the phrase “that guy from that movie” like Orser. He’s a refreshingly familiar face (Se7en, Independence Day and Saving Private Ryan live among his credits) and he uses it to a brilliant advantage in Riley Stearns‘ claustrophobic Faults. A broken and broke writer, specialising on mind control techniques and cult mentality; Living from hand to mouth on a failing book tour and avoiding his manager’s debt notices he stumbles across some parents in need of help with their wayward little girl.
Poor young Claire (a bewitching Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been brainwashed by Faults, an inexplicable cult in an unnamed US state. Sean Durkin‘s masterful Martha Marcy May Marlene took a similar tact in dealing with a strange road to recovery after the fact. A paranoid 70’s thriller unfolds in Faults as it plays out within the adjoining rooms of a cheep motel, the scene for Ansel’s heavily priced kidnapping and intervention of Claire at the behest of her concerned folks (Beth Grant and Chris Ellis). As the 5 day lock in gets underway Ansel’s broken man and Claire’s steadfast and devout member begin to butt heads as the writer’s sanity is tested and the debt collectors close in.
Stearns fills Faults with pitch black humour (Ansel’s half assed suicide attempt at the tail pipe of his car is laugh out loud funny); Winstead plays Claire beautifully, almost schizophrenically and this swift 90 minute deprogramming session is a fine piece of psychological film making. There are faults in Faults; Ansel’s manager and goon combo detract from the pressure cooker main line and the finale feels a little forced in looking for a “gotcha” moment but, make no mistake, this is a funny, scary and emotionally affecting and atmospheric first film, controlled and lifted by the incredible Leland Orser.