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September 4, 2016

Disorder (2015)
Director: Alice Winocour
Actors: Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy

schoenaerts+disorder+3.png (400×228)

Synopsis: Army veteran, Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), is suffering from PTSD. He is recruited as a security guard for the wife of a wealthy Lebanese businessman, and the task soon becomes much more problematic than he might have expected….

Review: I recently wrote about the value of female directors – especially those with a superior mastery of ambience and aesthetic – and Alice Winocour’s Disorder is a classic case in point. On paper, this might seem a prototypical – even slight – genre proposition, but Winocour mines the sentiment of her main character’s condition (and the full spectrum of her medium) for a mesmeric exposition of immersive, thriller storytelling.

In a sense, the ‘disorder’ of the film’s title is not its narrative but its protagonist – hulking army private, Vincent, who is temporarily discharged from the military after displaying symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many films have made a theme of the impact of PTSD on the homefront – Susanne Bier’s Brødre, Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder, and Richard Jobson’s underrated Wayland’s Song. Winocour’s effort is by far the best though, and her ingenuity is laid bare in the unnerving opening scene: a group of soldiers running on a military training exercise, only for a jarring electronic sound design to heighten just as the frame focuses in on Vincent’s increasingly fraught features.

In fact, it’s probably the first-half of the film, where Winocour aligns her camera and aesthetic right by the very presence and psychology of Vincent that is the most effective. We see everything through his paranoid, heightened perspective. There are some mesmeric tracking shots stalking Vincent’s hulking shoulders as he processes his new job as security guard in a palatial house belonging to a shady Lebanese millionaire. And there is a masterpiece of thriller filmmaking in an increasingly tense, long wordless sequence as he follows a suspicious character around the house during the millionaire’s evening soirée.

The movie does devolve into a more conventional genre piece in its second half, although the shift from the suggestive opening to the pulpier second-half has a shuddering piece of filmmaking as its literal about-turn. As well as being a triumph for Winocour’s inventive, aesthetic take on the thriller genre, it’s also a marvellous piece of rugged, undemonstrative acting from Matthias Schoenaerts as the wired and traumatised Vincent. It’s a cracking return to form for him, and it will be interesting to see if there’s more mileage in a continuing Winocour-Schoenarts double-act; I, for one, would be the first in line to see a follow-up. (September 2016)

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