To critics at Cannes that were growing weary of long-winded art films that move at a snail’s pace, Disorder may have felt like a bit of a breath of fresh air. Throbbing with an electronic beat from the start, and not getting too bogged down by exploring it’s hero’s post-traumatic stress disorder, Alice Winocour’s film is a simple thriller that mounts the tension from its opening scenes and keeps audiences gripped throughout. It’s unlikely to win any awards, but it’s a welcome chance to get comfortable on the edge of your seat for just over an hour and a half.
Matthias Schoenaerts plays Vincent, a soldier who returns from Afghanistan to be medically assessed due to his nosebleeds, hallucinations and other symptoms of acute anxiety. Taking a security job at wealthy Lebanese businessman Whalid’s mansion, Vincent soon finds himself becoming embroiled in the lives of his client’s family. Knowing Vincent won’t be going back to fight again, his friend Denis offers him the seemingly simple task of looking after Whalid’s wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and son Ali, while the businessman takes a potentially dangerous trip. Becoming alerted to some dodgy dealings before Whalid leaves, Vincent’s already burgeoning anxiety turns to full blown paranoia as he strives to protect the family from a potentially dangerous threat.
It’s not paranoia if they’re really after you and so it goes for Vincent as he finds himself putting his temper and flair for violence to good use during Disorder. It’s a slow build up, and Winocour is keen to make viewer’s doubt Vincent’s mind state in the first half of the film. Is he imagining threats around every corner, or is he just highly attuned to sense danger after his time serving in Afghanistan. While this is all explored rather pointedly in the early scenes with Vincent necking an assortment of pills and suffering from a range of noticeable tics, it takes a back seat as the action amps up for a home invasion set piece at the film’s climax. Once it becomes clear that Vincent has every right to be on edge, Disorder strays into formulaic thriller territory but still throbs with energy.
Before this, we have to make do with Vincent and Jessie playing family as Vincent discovers his heart is intact, even if his mind is a little fractured. While taking care of Jessie and Ali, Vincent starts to take the absent father’s role and the hint of a romance starts to develop between the couple. Schoenaerts is cementing his reputation as another heartthrob with real talent behind his chiselled features and impressive physical presence. While the chaste romance is kept just barely simmering, it is the earlier moments where Vincent shows signs of trauma that allow Schoenaerts to really impress. He’s a credible romantic lead, but when he springs into action, he is impossible to take your eyes off.
Meanwhile Kruger gets the most minimal role imaginable, trapped in an extremely tired and typical worrying wife role and given little to do except look pretty. It’s a shame as Vincent comes across as a fairly complex character but Kruger is under served here by the writers. That said, she is certainly eye catching and while strutting around the beautiful mansion she lives in, she does a convincing job of fitting into her lush surroundings as the gorgeous trophy wife.
While the screenplay is nothing too original, the film looks and sounds excellent. The production design manages to make the mansion where most of the film is set both claustrophobic and wonderfully lavish. More importantly the score from French techno artist Gesaffelstein is inventive, energetic and perfectly captures the overactive and disturbed mind of Vincent. Aided immeasurably by its sound design, Disorder pulsates in order to get the blood pumping.
Those wishing to see Schoenaerts juggle machismo and sensitivity will enjoy the star’s performance here. As far as story, Hollywood has done this kind of thing a thousand times before and often better. However, while the writing may be nothing hugely special, as a director, Alice Winocour will probably be heading to Hollywood soon with a calling card as effectively entertaining as this.
Watch the trailer: