“Disorder” is a genre piece more thoughtful and powerful than I expected. While often tense and gripping as required, the movie relentlessly delves into its deeply troubled hero’s damaged state of mind, and the result is a compelling character study which also works as an efficient thriller which seldom lowers its guard throughout its running time just like its hero.
The hero of the movie is Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), a French special force soldier who recently returned from Afghanistan. Right from his very first scene in the movie, it is quite apparent to us that he has suffering a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his combat experience in Afghanistan, but he wants to go back to battlefield as feeling constantly awkward and nervous, and we see him trying to make himself look all right in front of a military doctor for being allowed to be back in action.
Meanwhile, he and his comrades including Denis (Paul Hamy) get hired as a temporary security detail by a Lebanese businessman named Imad Whalid (Percy Kemp), who is soon going to hold a big evening party at his big, luxurious mansion where he lives with his beautiful wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and their young son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant). While doing his job during the party, Vincent cannot help but agitated as constantly watchful of anything suspicious, and this nervous feeling of his is further accentuated to us via the effective sound design mainly consisting of palpable bass noises.
And it looks like there is really a danger around Whalid and his family. At one point, an important government official comes to the party, and it is revealed later in the story that he may be involved in a big scandal associated with arms dealing. Whalid seems to be involved this trouble in one way or another, and Vincent happens to witness his employer arguing with a certain uninvited guest over something serious in private.
On the next day, Whalid leaves the mansion for taking care of some business matter, and Vincent is asked to be a bodyguard for Jessie and Ali during Whaild’s absence. While reluctant at first, he agrees to do this extra job, and we soon see him focusing more on any possibility of danger. He often stares at whatever is being shown via a number of security cameras placed in and around the mansion, and he also comes to feel more need to protect Ali and Jessie, to whom he seems to be attracted after their first encounter at the party.
Adamantly sticking to Vincent’s unstable viewpoint, the movie slowly dials up the level of tension and paranoia while making us question what is shown through his viewpoint. There is an unnerving moment when he becomes alarmed by the presence of a car right behind the one he is driving, but we are not so sure about whether he is being followed by a real threat or not. When he is watching Jessie and Ali having a nice time on the local beach, his attention is frequently drawn to any suspicious sign around him, even though everything looks fine and peaceful on the surface.
While the movie eventually shifts onto a more disturbing mode as expected during its second half, director/co-writer Alice Winocour, who wrote the screenplay with Jean-Stéphane Bron, keeps everything as tense and tight as before. While the editing by Julien Lacheray is taut and efficient, the cinematographer Georges Lechaptois did a competent job of establishing nervous mood on the screen, which is further amplified by the electronic score by Gesaffelstein.
Above all, the movie is constantly propelled by another strong performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, a versatile Belgian actor who has steadily advanced since his unforgettable breakout turn in Oscar-nominated film “Bullhead” (2011). As shown from “Bullhead” and “Rust and Bone” (2012), Schoenaerts is very good at playing problematic tough men with intense physicality and aching sensitivity, and he is alternatively electrifying and touching as ably conveying to us the feelings and thoughts boiling and churning behind his character’s taciturn façade. While he is poignant during a little tender scene where Vincent shows a bit of his milder side to Jesse, he never lets us overlook his character’s increasingly disturbing aspect, and that is particularly exemplified well by one conversation scene among him and two other characters. The mood is lightened up a little as these two other characters let themselves loosened a bit, but then we notice how Vincent looks uneasy and uncomfortable, and that certainly adds more tension to what has already been built up to that point.
The other main performers in the movie are also solid on the whole. While Paul Hamy, Percy Kemp, and Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant fill their respective spots around Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, a German actress who has been more notable since she appeared in “Inglourious Basterds” (2009), holds her own small place well in her scenes with Schoenaerts, and I enjoyed the low-key chemistry generated between these two good performers.
Overall, “Disorder”, which was released as “Maryland” in France (It is the name of that mansion of the film, by the way), is worthwhile to watch considering its skillful direction as well as Schoenaerts’s committed performance, and it is a shame that the movie was quickly forgotten after it came out a few years ago. I recently heard about the production of the remake version in US, and I hope the movie will get some attention because of that.