Disorder

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Alice Winocour

Starring

Diane Kruger Matthias Schoenaerts Paul Hamy

Anticipation.

Matthias Schoenaerts has lately been in a string of duds.

Enjoyment.

But now he’s back and reminding us why we fell in love with him in the first place.

In Retrospect.

Lots of good stuff here. Winocour will go on to make even stronger films.

The ever impressive Matthias Schoenaerts plays a PTSD sufferer in this taut thriller from Alice Winocour.

You sense that there’s a secret cadre of cloven-hoofed agents working out of Hollywood, California whose task it is to wheedle out untested mavericks who might just be able to make a go of it in the factory of dreams. Possessing the aptitude to able to make profound statements about life and humanity through gesture or nuance – that sublime melding of sound and image! – may not be so high on the list of desirable talents. But building up a moment of high dread, or inventively choreographing a violent altercation, or maybe just filming an actor in a way which makes them look desirable, might just be enough to foot that golden ticket.

But perhaps French director Alice Winocour is fine just where she is? While her new film Disorder showcases a bounty of moments and flashes that could easily be corralled into some frisky English-language B-picture, there’s a uniquely European ambience to this tale of a taciturn soldier returning to France and importing the collected traumas of combat with him. Matthias Schoenaerts is Vincent, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and, clad in a battered trackie top, he takes up a gig as a security guard. His clients are the wife, Jessie (Diane Kruger), and son, Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant), of a nefarious Lebanese businessmen who has left the three of them in the confines of his plush country mansion, Maryland. Vincent’s brief is suspiciously light on detail, but the motives of the absent patriarch are indirectly revealed when shrieking assassins start diving through the windows with death in their eyes.

For the first hour of the film, Winocour plays on Vincent’s extraordinary paranoia, cultivated no doubt when he was in a state of constant high alert on army manoeuvers. For him, pain and death aren’t just lurking around every corner, but between shafts of light, or in minor alterations to the natural sound levels. The bark of a dog becomes an alarm call, just as a vague flicker in the middle distance could be the scope of the assassin’s rifle glinting in the sun. While Vincent’s mental fragility makes him a dab hand at his job, there are points where he takes things too seriously, and his irrational actions even place Jessie and Ali in additional peril.

There are hints of John Carpenter – especially a movie like Assault on Precinct 13 – to Disorder, a comparison which is bolstered by its chilling ambient soundtrack from French techno artist Gesaffelstein. Schoenaerts’ intricately-realised mania exemplifies the idea of the world caving in on itself, and you’re always made to feel that Winocour’s thematic ambitions always exceed the serviceably generic. Yet, by its closing frames, the film as a whole feels like a proposed idea without a satisfying end game.

Kruger comes across as little more than a damsel in distress, while Vincent’s paranoiac tendencies are merely a device around which to build necessary thrills. It does manage to push lots of buttons, and it pushes them hard and fast. So don’t be surprised if the next time you see Winocour it’s on a lengthy red carpet and flanked by Tinseltown A-listers.

Published 24 Mar 2016

Tags: Matthias Schoenaerts

Anticipation.

Matthias Schoenaerts has lately been in a string of duds.

Enjoyment.

But now he’s back and reminding us why we fell in love with him in the first place.

In Retrospect.

Lots of good stuff here. Winocour will go on to make even stronger films.

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