Movie Review: 'Disorder' (2015)


Writer/director Alice Winocour’s hypnotic French-language thriller runs heavy on innuendo and light on details. “Disorder” is an atmospheric drama that centers on Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) a veteran of France’s Special Forces, who has returned home from a recent stint in Afghanistan.

After multiple tours he is paying the price both physically and emotionally. When a physical reveals that he is losing his hearing and a psychological exam leads to a PTSD diagnosis, he is grounded from going back.

Now an ex-soldier (a prognosis he hopes to change), Vincent takes a job working security with his fellow military buddies at a lavish mansion named Maryland. His first night on the job yields its share of ups and downs, as an ultra exclusive party commences.

He dutifully watches as the lady of the house, Jesse (Diane Kruger) elegantly parades around fraternizing with guests. He also watches as her husband, a wealthy businessman (Percy Kemp) makes clandestine calls and shakes hands with associates.

Vincent is immediately suspicious, becoming guarded and inquisitive as a result. Then he is offered the opportunity to watch Jesse and her son, while the husband is off on a business trip. He accepts.

Tasked with the weight of securing their personal safety without a team, clearly leaves him on edge. Is it just nerves? Vincent starts witnessing even more alarming things, his radar hitting a fever pitch. The truth is about to surface.

If “Disorder” has one flaw it is that from the start, the movie overly relies on its protagonist’s possible paranoia as a plot point. Playing with whether or not he is delusional is not all that suspenseful, especially if you think you already know the answer. By the time that question is answered, “Disorder” shifts gears into a more solid ride.

The first action sequence is incredibly well-choreographed; with a proper mix between real-world combat and theatrical finesse. There are some stellar scenes like that afterwards, though not as many as one would have hoped for after such a kickoff.

For all of its building and brooding, “Disorder” has a lot of places it could go but feels unceremoniously restrained from heading. The innate chemistry between Vincent and Jesse hints at a love story. Vincent’s incomparable tactical skills point to a taut action outing.

The convenient timing and curious choice to have Vincent run point on Jesse’s personal detail is posed for a shocking reveal. And yet, all of this goes nowhere. Is it purposeful misdirection or a choice to circumvent cinematic cliché? Either way, it is an interesting one that plays out with a certain appeal.

In a role very similar to the one that gave way to his breakout performance as the tortured cattle farmer in “Bullhead”, actor Matthias Schoenaerts once again brilliantly inhabits the character of a wounded soul trapped in a tragic downward spiral. While there are shimmers of hope along the way, that sinking feeling of impending doom lurks around every ominous corner. 

Like “Bullhead” a lot of time in “Disorder” is spent with the camera simply following Schoenaerts' character around as he takes on rudimentary tasks. If it were any other actor that would seem tedious, with Schoenaerts at the helm that is not an issue.

He does not have a lot of dialogue to verbalize, which is to the film's credit. Schoenaerts is one of those rare actors who can say a lot, without saying anything at all. So much of his performances exist in the space between words and the same goes for “Disorder”.

Schoenaerts continues his streak of forging authentic chemistry with his leading lady, in this case Diane Kruger. Where the script leaves them with little to play in terms of big romance, they make up for it in tender glances and subtle physicality.

Like Schoenaerts, Kruger also brings an understated grace to her performance as the maternal Jesse. She finely straddles the line between panic and tenacity with crucial precision. And in a refreshing escape for recent cinema, Jesse is allowed to show fear and depend on Vincent to make that subside as her protector. 

The beauty in Winocour’s script and direction is that she appeals to subtlety over substance. There is no overindulgence and in that decision, she allows for viewers to yearn for more alongside her central characters. She also lets the story unfold at a gradual pace that casually ratchets up the tension throughout. There was room for a more Hollywood story here and to a certain extent; an inclusion of those satisfying elements would have been welcomed. 

Though as the title suggests, Winocour favors “Disorder” and in doing so creates a messy allure for the film. Once you can come to terms with the untapped potential and embrace what “Disorder” does possess, you can make peace with it and enjoy it for the admirable film that it is. Rating: 7.2/10

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