Film Review: Disorder

Somewhat serviceable thriller with an undercooked premise rests on the shoulders of its charismatic leads.
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Mustang co-scribe Alice Winocour’s sophomore directorial feature, Disorder, finds a brawny and temperamental Matthias Schoenaerts as bodyguard to a composed and sophisticated Diane Kruger. Playing Vincent Loreau, a former Middle East-stationed soldier suffering from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder, and Jessie, the nonchalant wife of a rich Lebanese businessman, respectively, the easy-on-the-eyes duo occasionally light up an otherwise cold and monotonous flick by their mere existence. Unfortunately, Disorder relies a little too heavily on the charisma of its leads and doesn’t demand much of their performance gifts. While Winocour pulls off a somewhat palatable thriller, escalating in stylishly austere and atmospheric settings—and that is to her credit as a tasteful director—she lacks focus (or, rather, a sturdy enough plot) in her mostly empty script, written in collaboration with Jean-Stéphane Bron.

The setting is the South of France, where Vincent works as part of the security team of a wealthy financier and his family at their outlandish estate. When his boss suddenly needs to take off on a brief business trip to Germany, Vincent gets hired on an unconvincing whim to safeguard Jessie and her young son. For an extended period of time, Vincent and Jessie only interact incidentally and hardly exchange words. Vincent’s PTSD, the story’s sole hook of suspense for a while, partially works as a device during this phase of the characters’ seeming mutual indifference. Vincent, who often hears disturbing sounds in his head and sees the reflections of his past trauma around him, routinely senses danger and suspects bystanders and even Jessie’s husband of villainy. Meanwhile, Winocour purposefully obscures the source of his suspicions to keep us guessing whether they’re based on anything real or just sheer paranoia.

In one near-fatal beach trip—which contains Disorder’s only truly disquieting scene—Vincent’s persistent mistrust towards his surroundings finally pays off when he fights off a group of assassins and protects Jessie and her son. From this point on, Disorder morphs into a middling home-invasion thriller, constructed around several implausible assertions. Even if you can disregard convenient conditions that pave the way for the third act—such as the lack of any real safety measures, additional security staff, or as much as a safe room in Jessie’s luxurious home—you might still dwell on questions like why none of their assailants are armed and why Jessie and Vincent don’t attempt to hide in a secure, uncompromised location. If you can overcome that, the suspense-filled scenes shot within the confinement of the house are actually quite functional in tension and mood. But they only matter as visual and stylistic flourishes that look good, failing to bolster the film’s vacant story that doesn’t bother with fully rendering its felons or heroes.

But at least there are Schoenaerts and Kruger onscreen, even if they have severely undernourished parts. Schoenaerts’ Vincent lands somewhere between “The Driver” (played by Ryan Gosling in Drive) and “John Klute” (played by Donald Sutherland in Klute) through his quiet, melancholic gaze and manly competence. Kruger, on the other hand, is savagely misused as a damsel-in-distress stuck between an arms-dealing criminal husband and a handsome savior, and frustratingly purposeless. The derisory scene she is handed at the end is especially unfortunate.

Disorder will leave you unsatisfied if you come for a full, rich story. But if you’re already in the theatre, you might as well stay for Winocour the director, who occasionally delivers crafty action even when her script can’t dial up the heat.

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