Alice Winocour’s tense thriller sees Matthias Schoenaerts’ battle-weary soldier turn to the world of private security. Only any peace he hoped for quickly vanishes when he’s tasked to protect a mother and son from a determined aggressor.
I’m not sure Disorder, writer-director Alice Winocour’s second feature film, is totally sure what it wants to be. A taut, claustrophobic home invasion thriller or paranoid conspiracy drama. Winocour, whose film Augustine drew plaudits at Cannes in 2012, has become a darling of the festival and even a jury member in 2016. But here she appears muddled in her approach that tries to appease her fellow cineastes while entertaining less demanding audiences. There’s elements of character study – a broken soldier, the nightmares of war in Afghanistan weighing heavily on his mental state – but the film is at its best when focusing on the family-in-peril, an overbearing darkness punctuated by an ambiguous enemy.
Diane Kruger’s Jessie is the small-time matriarch of his tiny family unit – just a mother and son living in a huge house paid for by their preoccupied husband and father and the illegalities of his business dealings. Belgium actor Matthias Schoenaerts as Vincent, a war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, has begun working as a private security contractor. He’s tasked to provide personal protection to Jessie while she’s alone with her son in their French Riviera mansion. However, having overheard a cloak and dagger conversation between her husband and business associates, Vincent believes her life could be in danger.
There’s an appealing thread of ambiguity underlining Vincent’s motivation and actions. Is his belief in Jessie’s plight warranted or a manifestation of threat brought on by his PTSD? It creates an interesting dynamic. Indeed, the family’s lives could be in danger from any number of avenues. Yet, the wooden nature of Schoenaerts performance dilutes the effectiveness of his troubled backstory, his awkwardness magnified in every scene he spends with the inherently natural Kruger. It means when Winocour attempts more intimate drama it falls flat.
Trouble is, there’s more time spent asking questions than actually fending off an aggressor. When things move into a higher gear the director shows she has plenty of skill orchestrating tense action (an attack in the family’s car is particularly memorable) but these moments are few and far between. And in wanting to steer clear of generic convention, any semblance of home invasion becomes an after-thought, adding to Disorder’s sense of not knowing if it’s one thing or another. If Winocour had packaged up some of these good ideas into a film that was less concerned with winning over the critics, she’d have channelled her obvious talent into something far more enjoyable. In this guise, Disorder will quickly be forgotten.
Written by Dan Stephens
Top 10 Films reviewed Disorder on DVD courtesy of Soda Pictures. The film was released on Blu-ray & DVD July 25