Since its premier at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival the French thriller Disorder (Maryland in France and Belgium) has garnered a lot of praise, competing for the Un Certain Regard section and being one of Variety’s top 21 movies at the festival. It is worthy of most of the praise.
Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a French soldier who is suffering from hearing loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also moonlights as a private security contractor in between missions and after working the security detail for a wealthy Lebanese businessman, Whalid’s (Percy Kemp) party he is hired to protect Whalid’s wife (Diane Kruger) and their young son, (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) while he is away. But Whalid’s dodgy business dealing start to catch up with him and Vincent’s simple job seems to become more complicated. Or is it a case of Vincent’s paranoia running amok?
Disorder is the second feature from writer/director Alice Winocour and shows she is a filmmaker with great potential. With Disorder she delivers A compelling psychological thriller with a realistic social twist. It is a surprisingly effective mix as it provides the thrills and drama. At the beginning of the movie, the doctor asks Vincent to return if he suffers from anxiety or hallucinations which leads to questions about whether there really is a conspiracy or if it’s just a figment of Vincent’s imagination.
Winocour gives Disorder a down beat look – one of the first scenes in the movies is Vincent undergoing medical tests, followed by him nearly losing it on a bus and going to his rundown apartment in a rough estate. It sets out a bleak tone, and it is kept throughout the movie. Even when Vincent enters into the wealthy Maryland estate there is a voyeuristic quality as he looks at Kruger’s character who remains nameless for most of the movie. When Vincent observes Kruger and the rest of the house through the security cameras, it was very reminiscent of the excellent British film Red Road, using the cameras to follow Kruger and others while also acting as a way to see events in the house.
Most of Disorder is told through Vincent’s eyes. It is focused on the relationship with Kruger. Any information about Whalid and his criminal activities is kept in the background, either overhearing Whalid and his guests at the party or through news reports. There is an element of political corruption which explains a lack of action from the police and the spectre of crime and political corruption is kept ever-present. But the focus is on the relationship between Vincent and Kruger – they are just pawns in a larger scheme, and their only objective is to survive. There are not planning to expose a conspiracy.
Violence is infrequent in Disorder but when it does appear it is quick and very brutal. Disorder has a very realistic depiction of violence, when people get stabbed or shot it has an impact as blood splatters on the walls. There is no glorification of the violence; we are not meant to cheer when it shown on screen – it is shown to be a struggle for life and death, and there is shock when an act is committed or seen. Vincent is a soldier, and he is shown to be very skilled when fighting off attackers and can break limbs with the best of them. This is the biggest concession Winocour makes to the genre’s tropes.
Disorder has two excellent leads. Schoenaerts is best to English language audiences for his roles in The Drop, Suite Française and Far from the Madding Crowd, but he truly shows his range as Vincent. Schoenaerts was able to portray Vincent’s psychological distress, having small outbursts of anger and acting irrationally, putting others in danger. He was perfect at being the unhinged soldier and the unflinching badass. Kruger was great at giving Vincent looks of disdain and holds him in contempt but depends on the soldier to protect her and her son – warming to him as the movie progresses.
Disorder is a taut thriller that has the look and feel of a gritty European drama while also being a strong character study and an intriguing thriller. It delivers with some hard hitting action sequences and shows that Alice Winocour is a filmmaker to watch, whether she decides to work in action, drama or horror.