Thomas Vickers previews Disorder, now playing at the Hyland Cinema.


Security and Paranoia: “Disorder”

Working as high-profile security can be a stressful position, but the added strain of mental health issues would be enough to push nearly anyone past their breaking point. This is the crux of French filmmaker Alice Winocour’s new film Disorder, and it makes for an intense, exciting thriller.

Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a soldier who has been taken off duty because he is suffering symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including migraines, nosebleeds, and auditory (and possibly visual) hallucinations. While he awaits the decision on whether he will resume active duty, he accepts a job guarding the family of a powerful albeit morally vague politician. With the man’s wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) in Vincent’s care, Vincent begins to see signs of danger; but is there really a conspiracy afoot, or have his hallucinations clouded his judgement?

Despite the fact that PTSD is a rather cliché plot device for soldier stories, the film takes it in a new direction. Where many films might focus on the human drama element of a soldier shattered by combat, Winocour instead builds tension with the mounting uncertainty of Vincent’s every step. The beginning establishes a perfect level on unreliability on the part of Vincent as he investigates noises that only he can hear; by setting up this concept early on, the audience is left on edge, wondering whether that bump in the night was in his head or in the house.

The score is yet another interesting choice on the part of Winocour. The initial feeling is one of confusion, as the score does not quite match up with the action onscreen (even as specific as a different time signature than the marching of soldiers); as the action progresses, however, the genius of this decision comes out, as the audience not only comprehends the break from reality that Vincent senses in his worst moments, but is also taught that this style of discordant score signifies the ebb and flow of Vincent’s perception.

Winocour’s excellent choices deliver a piece that is at once structurally logical and stylistically abstract; these choices are backed by an excellent pair of leads. Schoenaerts is perfectly suited to the hardened-but-damaged soldier he finds in Vincent, playing the role with a precise balance of brutality and remorse. Kruger is an excellent support to Schoenaerts, as Jessie is a bold, frightened woman in a tense situation. The pair carry the film through its various twists and turns with the exact expertise necessary for this action thriller.

The only issue to be found in this picture is that the ending seems to cut everything short; the final scene leaves a few things open to interpretation, which is a valid stylistic choice, however it still feels overly abrupt as the action is cut short just as it seemed to be ramping up. This could very well be intentional, as the scene prior to the last sparks a change in Vincent that might curtail his action, but the ending nevertheless feels sudden. That is by no means a reason not to see the film, however, as Winocour offers an exciting thriller that is definitely worth a watch.

Disorder is now playing at The Hyland Cinema.

 4 (out of 5)

Thomas Vickers is a London-based filmmaker and The Beat Magazine's resident film critic.

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