Mark Reviews Movies

Disorder (2016)


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Alice Winocour

Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy, Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant, Percy Kemp

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:38

Release Date: 8/12/16 (limited); 10/28/16 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 27, 2016

From the look on his face, we wonder if Vincent's (Matthias Schoenaerts) heart is still in it. Maybe it is, and his body has simply given out from exhaustion. Whatever the cause, as he jogs with his fellow soldiers in the French Army somewhere in Afghanistan at the start of Disorder, Vincent does not join in their chanting. He looks ready to fall over, but as much of a struggle as it is, he keeps up the pace. In the next scene, a doctor is administering a hearing test on him, and Vincent fails. He won't be going back to Afghanistan anytime soon, if ever again, with the Army.

He repeatedly tells himself and others that he will be going back. This absence is only temporary. In the meantime, he takes a job with some fellow ex-Army comrades at a private security company. It's clear pretty quickly into his first gig with the firm that, if something was wrong with him while he serving in the military, his situation hasn't improved in the civilian sector. While working a private party held by a wealthy businessman (Percy Kemp) on the man's huge estate, Vincent is distracted. His ears keep ringing, and he yanks the radio earpiece out to stop the constant updates and orders from his co-workers. He's quick to become frustrated or to anger. A confrontation with a man who isn't on the guest list seems as if it could turn to violence.

All of these are symptoms, not the problem itself. As the title suggests, Vincent is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Writer/director Alice Winocour's movie is something of an anomaly in the realm of dramatizations of the condition, in that it never attempts either directly or indirectly to psychoanalyze its protagonist.

There are no flashbacks to a battle or any other intense situation in Afghanistan. Vincent does not talk about his time in the military, except to acknowledge that he served, to confirm where he was stationed, and to say that he will be going back eventually. If someone notices that Vincent's behavior or temperament seems "off," the response is silence. There are no heart-to-heart discussions, no probing questions, and no attempts to offer helpful advice.

Winocour's screenplay (written in collaboration with Jean-Stéphane Bron) treats Vincent's condition plainly and honestly as a simple, unavoidable fact of his life. It is simply part of who he is now, and the question is how the condition affects his life, not if he can overcome it.

After the party, Vincent is assigned a job to watch over the businessman's wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) while he is away for two days. Vincent stays in a room in the house, secures the home at night, and monitors the grounds for any suspicious activity. The three gradually form something resembling a family unit as Vincent's stay continues.

Based on some chatter he overheard during the party, Vincent suspects that his employer's business affairs aren't completely legitimate. He starts behaving in ways that are either paranoid or appropriate, depending on whether or not his assumption is correct. Jessie either knows more than she lets on, is as surprised as Vincent, or falls somewhere in between. Whatever the truth, Vincent's seemingly erratic behavior makes her suspect her bodyguard.

In terms of drama, Vincent's PTSD is also a way of calling his decisions and actions into question, but Winocour's approach, which keeps the character front and center even as external threats begin to work against him, ensures that the character's condition is never exploited for dramatic effect. Schoenaerts' performance, which stays subdued throughout, is vital in that regard, too.

The plot involves a wide-reaching conspiracy, as well as a climactic siege within the businessman's sprawling mansion, involving an unknown group that is after the businessman and his family. It's familiar, which is both an asset and a detriment. We're comfortable enough with the workings of the plot to focus on how Winocour explores the challenges of the protagonist, but there's no denying that the climax becomes routine (An earlier ambush within the confines of a car is, comparatively, far more effective, if only because of the suddenness of it and the desperation that comes with the tight space), just as it's unavoidable that there's disappointment at the end of it all.

Once the action begins, Winocour's efforts to establish this character, as well as the relationship between the protector and his charges, mean little within the context of a fairly standard thriller. Whatever could be explored about Vincent finding himself in a high-pressure situation is relegated to only two shots: one of him realizing the action he has had to take and the movie's enigmatic final shot, in which a character's return seemingly defies the laws of physics (It's a symbolic return, obviously, although its meaning seems contrary to everything that has been established about the protagonist until then). His interactions with Jessie and Ali become those of an action hero with people to save.

Essentially, everything that has set Disorder apart stops. It's sudden and with little warning. Maybe there's something deeper to be taken from that move (perhaps as a reflection of whatever led to Vincent's condition in the first place), but it simply comes across as a movie that finds as straightforward a resolution to a complex scenario as possible.

Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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