The second feature film from director Alice Winocour, Disorder is a tense and unsettling ride through the psyche of a traumatised ex-soldier. The film’s phenomenal score and a muted performance from Matthias Schoenaerts keep hearts racing and palms sweaty, even when proceedings begin to drag.
Disorder is a French-language picture that sees Schoenaerts play Vincent Loreau, a hulking ex-soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. On returning home, Vincent takes a private security job at the home of a wealthy Lebanese businessman and begins to sink into his paranoia. Schoenaerts looks every inch the wounded serviceman, bringing a looming physicality to the role that has, sadly, not been required in his recent Hollywood outings. When Vincent is tasked with the seemingly simple job of protecting his employer’s wife and son for a couple of days, Schoenaerts is marvellously economical in his portrayal of the conflicting sides of Vincent’s personality: the efficient, trained soldier, and the withdrawn man-child. The film suffers a little when striving for tenderness, as Diane Kruger is insipid as the client’s wife Jessie, but Vincent’s affection for her is convincing enough.
The film is most comfortable when it comes to building an unbearable level of tension. French DJ and producer Gesaffelstein delivers a sensational throbbing, pounding soundtrack to Vincent’s moments of weakness and with the bass turned up to 11, the beat is felt as much as heard. This is interspersed with clanging notes and foreboding organ music, reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, drawing in a thick atmosphere of pressure around the vulnerable group so that when the action eventually arrives, in short percussive flurries, it lands harder and lingers longer in the viewer’s mind. Beyond the music, Vincent’s hearing loss, explained at the outset, means that every bump, rumble or smash that echoes throughout the cavernous mansion in which we spend the film, is abrupt and startling but also comes with an inherent uncertainty attached.
The film is stylishly shot without being flashy, as Vincent wanders alone through a permanently out-of-focus world. Often the camera follows a couple of paces behind Vincent, bobbing as it strives to keep up with his psychoses, as if his rational self is being dragged along by his paranoid reactions to everyday situations. The viewer is shackled to Vincent, and as he loses his grip on reality, so do we. Even worse, every swing of the CCTV cameras that Vincent watches eagerly promises to reveal an untold horror that never arrives.
The film does sag slightly in the second act and some of Winocour’s direction begins to tire, but it only takes a little patience before Disorder draws you in once more and finally delivers a breathless and brutal climax. Winocour has sidestepped the cliché landmines that surround the film’s premise and has delivered a rough diamond of a movie, one that will chill the blood long after the credits have rolled.
Words by Fraser Kay