Matthias Schoenaerts delivers ample conviction in an intriguing thriller from Alice Winocour
Originally titled Maryland, French director Alice Winocour’s fitfully successful thriller is now operating under the more prosaic moniker of Disorder. Admittedly, it does sum up the scrambled brain of central character Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), a muscle-bound ex-Special Forces soldier who has returned from Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Just this bare-bones summary already makes Disorder sound horribly clichéd; in such coming-home dramas, PTSD has become a lazy way for filmmakers to explore psychological breakdown. The film works better as a pure genre piece, with Vincent soon seen as a suited-and-booted security guard at a lavish party in the South of France thrown by Imad Whalid (Percy Kemp), a Lebanese businessman with connections to the arms trade. Vincent is singled out and asked to protect his employer’s trophy wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) when he’s away on business. It’s here that the film really kicks into gear, as Kruger’s character – initially reluctant to have him around – gradually thaws to Vincent.
Vincent’s innate paranoia is reflected in the film’s unsettling atmosphere, with Winocour cunningly ratcheting up the tension, while shadows and darkness come into play when it lurches into home-invasion territory. If the final reel is increasingly unfathomable then, to be fair, Schoenaerts plays it like he means it; the role returns him to Bullhead and Rust and Bone turf – as he inhabits the sort of macho man whose physical scars are indicative of deeper wounds.
Winocour – who also co-wrote the highly acclaimed, soon-to-be-released Mustang – has evidently got the chops to play with genre conventions, and it’s heartening to see a female director stroll so confidently into such masculine terrain. It’s just a pity that the film ties itself in knots in the last stretch, and never quite shows us what’s beneath the surface.
Selected release from Fri 25 Mar.