Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy, Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant
Director: Alice Winocour
Writers: Alice Winocour, Jean-Stéphane Bron
At first glance Disorder looks like it has the making of a typical, even generic, European thriller. An ex-soldier is hired to be the bodyguard of a beautiful woman and stays with her in a secluded summer home where the two are often alone together. I can only imagine what Hollywood might have done if they had managed to get their hands on the script. However the fact that the leading creative mind behind this film is a woman is interesting. Films of this genre tend to be seen in purely masculine terms and, in an industry that is already overwhelmingly dominated by men, it is refreshing to see a more feminine approach to this type of story. Winocour’s approach has turned out to be quite revealing of how films like this are typically made. For example this film portrays its main character, a man, in an alluring way which makes one think of how women tend to be portrayed in these films. I don’t think Disorder is by its own merits a particularly great movie but it is interesting in what it reveals about gendered approaches to film.
Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) is an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD following his service in Afghanistan. He now makes his living as a bodyguard under the service of a wealthy Lebanese businessman with some rather shady dealings. When his boss must travel abroad for a few days, he leaves his wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) under Vincent’s protection. They travel together to their summer home Maryland in the countryside where they expect to find nothing but peace and tranquillity. Vincent however cannot help but feel paranoid at all times and starts to wonder whether his condition has had a corrosive effect on his instincts as a soldier. He also wonders whether his attraction to Jessie is proving to be equally detrimental to his judgement.
The angle this film adopts in depicting this story from the perspective of a traumatised soldier does prove quite effective. There is an undeniable air of paranoia as Vincent question everything around him in order to protect this woman and her child. He sees a car following them as they make their way to the beach and cannot help but wonder whether it’s actually tailing them or is in fact perfectly innocent of any intrigue. When his actions start to scare Jessie and Ali, Vincent begins doubting himself. In his state he could very well be more of a threat to the family than anybody else who might seek to do them harm. Winocour does a good job of reflecting this in her direction, examining everything purely from Vincent’s perspective and allowing enough instability in the camera movements to put the audience at unease. Is the camera shaking because something bad is about to happen or is it because Vincent is on the verge of a meltdown? We don’t know and that’s just the way Winocour likes it.
With that said however, Vincent himself isn’t really that interesting of a character. He’s traumatised and tormented but doesn’t display much in terms of personality. Maybe his service as a soldier has eaten away at his personality, leaving a hardened warrior in its place, but I felt like there should have been something there that the audience could have connected with on a human level. Although Schoenaerts was serviceable in the role, I simply didn’t think the character made enough of an impression on me for me to really empathise with him. Kruger was also decent in the role of a trophy wife who is actually more of a prisoner than she initially appears to be but, again, there just wasn’t much to the character herself that I found that interesting. Both Vincent and Jessie are good ideas for characters but I never found their stories to be that interesting because I didn’t think the film took the step to make the characters themselves interesting.
Disorder is a well-constructed film that succeeds at building tension and that has some rather intense action. I also like the perspective that Winocour brought to the film, treating the subject with more sensitivity than a male director or writer might have been inclined to. The film takes its time with building its atmosphere, which was greatly assisted by the score, and there is definitely a strong sense of paranoia. We are never sure how safe these characters are or whether they can trust anyone or even themselves. The characters however were not interesting enough to truly engage me and the ending was greatly underwhelming. Still, all things considered, it is interesting what this film reveals about gender in film today. The palpable tension and well-executed action show that the thriller is by no means a man’s genre. Winocour shows herself to be a thoroughly capable director with a sound understanding of filmmaking and has crafted a thriller that is overall neither better or worse than the rest being made today.