Directed by: Alice Winocour.
Written by: Alice Winocour and Jean-Stéphane Bron and Robin Campillo and Vincent Poymiro.
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts (Vincent), Diane Kruger (Jessie), Paul Hamy (Denis), Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant (Ali), Percy Kemp (Imad Whalid), Victor Pontecorvo (Tom), Michaël Dauber (Kevin), Franck Torrecillas (Franck), Chems Eddine (Tarik).
Matthias Schoenaerts has quickly become one of the most interesting actors in the world. His work in films like Bullhead, Rust & Bone, The Drop and A Bigger Splash is all top notch, as he plays men in each who bulking physical frame makes us see him one way, but throughout the performance we come to see him another. He’s a kinder, gentler Tom Hardy (which is probably why his work in The Drop, opposite Hardy, worked so well – he’s a flip side of the same coin). Schoenaerts’ work in Disorder is equally as good – and the direction by Alice Winocour is top notch. Yet, there is something about the film that holds it back from being all that good – in fact, it’s more than a little dull. Schoenaerts is in nearly every frame of the movie – the film is told from his unreliable point-of-view, and both he and Winocour do an excellent job of letting us inside his characters head. The problem may just be it’s not a very interesting place to be – and since Winocour pretty much dispenses with regular plotting – it’s a genre film, and she doesn’t much care for the plotting of that, it’s makes the film rather shallow.
The film is about Vincent (Schoenaerts), a soldier just returned from Afghanistan, and desperately wants to go right back. But he has PTSD and hearing loss, and he may never be allowed to. In the meantime, he is working for an army buddy who has set up some security work for them. The first job is working a party for the wealthy Imad Whalid (Percy Kemp) – a wealthy man, with a lot of contacts in the government – the very people who sent Vincent to war in the first place. As becomes increasingly clear throughout the movie, Vincent cannot trust his own perception of reality. He senses a threat around every corner – every car he sees in the rearview mirror is following him, every person looking at him is suspect. This becomes clear during the party – and then starts to spiral out of control a little bit afterwards – when Whalid is called away on business, and hires Vincent to stay on for a few days to guard his wife, Jessie (Diane Kruger) and their young son. Is Vincent really perceptive or is he just paranoid? Or is it both?
The highlight of the movie is the party sequence, which is brilliantly directed by Winocour and played by Schoenaerts, as he becomes increasingly frazzled as everything progresses. This is where the film is at its best, because it’s here that Winocour places us inside Vincent’s head – the throbbing bass of the music, the casual cruelty of the guests, who either look right through him or ask him for ice, how Vincent starts building an alternate, delusion relationship with Jessie, who he sees crying, and thinks there is a connection there. This delusion, like Vincent’s paranoia, will continue to build in the third act, which becomes a fairly standard thriller.
It’s the third act, that for me, was a real let down. Having spent time with Vincent, and building his paranoia and delusions throughout the party, everything that follows pretty much takes the most straightforward and predictable path towards revolution. On one level, I understand that Winocour isn’t really interested in the plot – she’s far more interested in Vincent, and the inner workings of his brain. The best scenes in the second half of the movie are the quietest – the way Vincent smiles when Jessie suggests he live out on the wilderness of Canada, because he’d fit there for instance. That’s a happy moment for him, because it’s the first time he senses that she actually likes him – and thinks about him (which, just feeds his delusion even more). It’s a little more heartbreaking later in the film when he has that delusion popped – watching his friends interact with Jessie, and overhearing what she asks him “What is wrong with Vincent?”. More moments like this in the second half would have made the film stronger.
Instead, what we get in the film’s second half is a fairly standard home invasion thriller – except the bad guys have no real motivation – I’m sure they do, but since Vincent doesn’t understand what it is, neither do the audience – that devolves into a lot of gun and knife fights. To be fair, Winocour directs these well – but they are also a little mechanical. She is clearly more interested in Vincent than the plot he’s involved in – which means she probably should have spent less time on that plot. As it stands, Disorder makes me extremely curious as to what she is going to do next as a director, but a little disappointed in what she produced this time.