Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
A trophy wife and her child are left alone on an estate in the south of France by her controversial political-figure husband, with only a PTSD-stricken security guard to protect them. This is a great set-up for a Liam Neeson/ Joel Silver movie – only it doesn’t really go to any of the places you’d think in director-writer Alice Winocour‘s DISORDER. It’s a bit rote as both a PTSD and home invasion picture.
Vincent (Mattias Schoenaerts) has just gotten off a tour of duty in the Army when, to make ends meet, he takes a gig as a security guard for a wealthy couple’s party at their palatial estate, Maryland (which incidentally is the film’s international title). While attempting to stave off madness, he refocuses his energy and skills, keeping a close watch on Imad Whalid (Percy Kemp), his beautiful wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and their young son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant). Before the guests trickle in, Vincent surveys the grounds, and we too become familiar with the security features that will come into play later – the cameras, the headsets, the home alarm and the skylights. We also see that Imad’s gotten himself into some hot water with the Prime Minister’s pals. Imad is called away on an emergency business trip and needs Vincent to keep watch Jessie and Ali an extra two days. The first day is fine, but, on the second day, things go haywire and Vincent’s special set of skills are needed. It then becomes apparent that these pursuers have messed with the wrong man.
Winocour does a sufficient job at infusing atmosphere into the narrative. A pervasive sense of paranoia courses through the film’s veins. She takes her time building a foreboding dread. She also places minor tension explosions in non-traditional places within the traditional three-act structure which, in hindsight, is interesting. Plus, the dog, Ghost, lives.
It’s refreshing that there’s nothing predictable about the story, but at the same time, it’s also a little disappointing elements aren’t explored to their fullest extent. Where did the pursuers disappear to for so long? Rather than an unrelenting force, psychologically torturing this trio, they only pop up now and then. Where did the house staff go? Are they dead somewhere in the mansion and their scenes were cut for time? Ali has no function except as a frankly unnecessary “but the children” manipulative tool. Vincent and Jessie barely form any kind of a relationship before Vincent decides he’d follow her to Canada if need be. Even sharing a terrifying experience doesn’t bring the two closer as you’d assume it would. Their relationship is far too understated for its own good.
Though the narrative is clean and straightforward, a little more dizzying disorder would have been greatly welcomed. Maybe we’ll get that with the inevitable remake that seems like it’s percolating – so long as they keep Schoenaerts.
DISORDER plays AFI Fest on November 7 and 8. It has no US release date as of print.