Film Review | Disorder is a Smart Art House Addition to the Crime Drama Genre

Disorder is a tough film to discuss without spoilers as its genre mutates as the film progresses. What begins as a character-focused drama, slowly becomes a low-key paranoid thriller and later erupts into an Assault on Precinct 13 style action movie. This leaves critics unsure of how much information to divulge in terms of story. I’ve read many reviews which I believe reveal too much of the plot so I’d urge readers to be careful if they haven’t yet seen the film.

Disorder is in the IFI from Friday 25th March -
Disorder is in the IFI from Friday 25th March Source

As Disorder begins, the protagonist Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust & Bone, The Drop) is given bad news by his army doctor. His experiences at war have left have him both physically and psychologically damaged. He suffers from tinnitus (a loud painful ringing in his ears), concentration problems and nightmares. During a break from the army, he is hired by a shady Lebanese businessman with government connections to work security at his luxurious home entitled Maryland (the title of the film in some other territories). Vincent becomes transfixed by his employers’ wife Jessie (Diane Kruger, Inglorious Basterds). When Jessie’s husband leaves the country, Vincent is tasked with taking care of her and her child.

To reveal anymore would be wrong, because, although the plot is not necessarily the most complex in the world, writer-director Alice Winocour stages some brilliantly bone-crunching action sequences that emerge from nowhere and truly jolt the viewer. The action is a breath of fresh air in comparison to many blockbusters. It is gritty and violent and unlike many films feels rooted in reality. Within seconds, the slow-burn of the film’s build up is gone and the characters are unexpectedly plunged into disorder.

The production and sound design of the film is also worthy of praise. There is a long party scene early on the film, that Vincent is patrolling, which manages to keep the viewer on edge despite nothing substantial happening. The party music, the neon lights, the labyrinthine structure of Jessie’s home, Vincent’s ringing in his ears – all these elements combine to create this strange sensorial unease. It is as if something is going to jump out at the viewer at any moment. The eerie score (reminiscent of Drive) by techno artist Gesaffelstein also contributes to this paranoia drenched atmosphere.

Diane Kruger and Matthias Schoenaerts in Disorder -
Diane Kruger and Matthias Schoenaerts in Disorder Source

The central performance by Schoenaerts is excellent. For some reason in his recent English-language films such as The Danish Girl or Far From the Madding Crowd, he has been cast as the love interest. However, his true strength lies in masculine dramas and action pictures. He possesses a wounded bear like quality. He is an intensely physical presence but can say a lot with just a shrug or a look. Therefore he is perfectly cast as a PTSD victim. Kruger plays her slightly under-written role well. Although, praise should be given to Winocour who does not simply portray Jessie as a love interest. Her relationship with Vincent is far more complex with him forming an emotional attachment to her without ever taking action. He gazes at her from afar or on security cameras in some creepily voyeuristic scenes which are never exploitative. They serve to function the drama. 

Disorder also features some under-stated social commentary. Although its anti-war sentiments are obvious, the film tackles some other issues such as gender oppression. A news report playing in the background of a scene draws comparisons between women’s suffering in Islamic countries and Jessie’s predicament caused by her Lebanese husband.

Verdict: Writer-director Alice Winocour’s sophomore effort, featuring terrific work by its leading man, is an impressive edition to the art-house crime drama genre.

Disorder is in the IFI from Friday 25th March. Check out the trailer below.

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