Alex Rose / CULT #MTL
Ever since his return from the war, Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) is plagued with what appears to be PTSD: he can’t sleep, he’s paranoid at all times, popping pills he gets off a war amputee buddy… but that doesn’t stop him from taking a security job with his old army buddy Denis (Paul Hamy). They’re tasked with security for a large party being thrown by Whalid (Percy Kemp), a wealthy businessman whom Vincent soon surmises got that way through shady arms dealings.
Working security isn’t obvious for a man plagued with paranoid delusions that someone is always out to get him, which complicates things when Vincent agrees to take a cush gig “babysitting” Tarik’s beautiful, lonely wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and their young son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) for a couple of days. While he’s away on business, Tarik’s dirty dealings are exposed. Soon, men have Jessie and Tarik’s palatial estate under siege — or do they really?
It’s an irresistible pitch for a movie, but the devil’s in the details. On paper, it reads like it could either be fantastic or a generically titled mid-January release that exists mostly as a paycheque for Liam Neeson or Ethan Hawke. Thankfully, director Alice Winocour (best known for her period drama Augustine and for co-writing the excellent Mustang) has a feel for the material that’s more Michael Haneke than The Purge: Anarchy. While nominally a home-invasion movie in content, Disorder (confusingly renamed from its original French title, Maryland — the name of Jessie and Tarik’s palatial compound) plays with the rather clichéd notions at its core in a compelling, novel way.
“Brooding brute” and “beautiful/bored” are such recurring archetypes for both Schoenaerts and Kruger that they probably came printed on their resumés for years; the casting isn’t particularly canny but it works, especially in the way that the film subverts your expectations of intensity. Vincent is monosyllabic, sullen, removed; his muscles and shaved head are the only indication that he could spring to action if push came to shove. Jessie is glamorous, beautiful, icy — if anything, she seems more likely to be able to deal with conflict than Vincent if it wasn’t for the safety of her young son.
If most thrillers are slow-burn, this is a brisket given 14 hours on indirect heat. We’re left to stew in Vincent’s paranoia for most of the film, peering in on private conversations and slinking around in the shadows looking for something that isn’t there unless you go looking for it. Winocour shows an excellent grasp of the unsaid, the murky and the slightly-off. Disorder works better as a slippery, shadowy prelude to a thriller than it does a cracking genre film like the week’s other release, Green Room; it hardly has the intensity to match that kind of film, but as a nerve-wracking drama, it’s more than satisfying.