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Disorder [AFI FEST 2015]
IFC Films // Unrated // November 7, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Afi]
With films such as American Sniper getting worldwide attention, soldiers suffering from PTSD have been brought into the spotlight. Often times, the disorder utilized as a character trait to increase the tension throughout a given film, but is often misunderstood in cinema. Writer/director Alice Winocour utilizes PTSD as the centerpiece of a dramatic thriller that follows the typical formula that we've come to expect from this type of film. However, she brings a unique element to the feature that allows it to have somewhat its own voice. While occasionally tense, her movie titled Disorder is simply okay, when it had the potential to be so much more.
Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) is an ex-soldier, who suffers from PTSD. When he feels that his chances of being able to return to combat are slowly diminishing, he's hired as a bodyguard to the wife (Diane Kruger) and child of a wealthy Lebanese businessman. While their extravagant house appears to be tranquil, Vincent becomes convinced that a threat to their safety is lurking somewhere nearby. Meanwhile, he develops unsuspecting romantic feelings towards the very same woman that he is being paid to protect.
Opening with an examination to determine whether or not Vincent is fit to return back to the military, the audience immediately becomes aware of his PTSD. However, he wants nothing more than to join the military once again. Nevertheless, he's forced to assimilate with ordinary society with the job of being a bodyguard. Winocour does a good job of representing his disorder, as it's clear that she did a lot of research when developing the character. This role quickly becomes one that we genuinely care about. He ultimately displays clear romantic feelings towards the woman that has been protecting, by the name of Jessie. It's an eerie romance that gives the film a unique element that it wouldn't have had otherwise. Without being forced down the viewer's throat, it's an underlying story that becomes more realized towards the final act of the film. However, Winocour should have developed this a tad more, as Vincent's feelings for her begin to feel a bit too much for the small amount that they have interacted. Jessie is depicted as little more than an over-sexualized object, making it difficult for us to see what it is about her that interests him. Even so, this sub-plot is one that is integral to the character, especially as he continues to battle with his PTSD.
Many synopses are describing Disorder as a home invasion film, but don't be fooled. It isn't so much about intruders trying to get inside the house as much as it is about a man who may or may not be utterly paranoid. Disorder incorporates a few moments of quick violence, although this is hardly the centerpiece of the feature. It spends more of its time focusing on tension, which it initially crafts quite well. However, Winocour gives us the snippets of violence too easily. The tension doesn't have enough time to build to the heights that it could have easily grown to, which greatly diminishes every payoff that the film has. This especially holds true for the third act, which goes in the direction of giving thriller fans what they want, but she doesn't necessarily make us eager for it. Rather, she puts it on a silver platter right in front of us, yet doesn't entirely push it to the limits of where it should be. There are a lot more missed opportunities here than there are satisfying payoffs, which is a real shame.
With the exception of this strange romance that doesn't completely develop, Disorder pretty much follows the formula that we've come to expect from a dramatic thriller of this nature. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it doesn't execute it in any memorable fashion. Perhaps the most unfortunate element of the film is the fact that it will be forgotten in about a month's time. If Winocour isn't going to go all of the way to make it divert from our predictions, then it should at least be effective in its execution. Unfortunately, it leaves the audience feeling somewhat empty. There are pieces of a great movie hidden throughout, but they aren't all put together. There isn't anything holding the tension, characters arcs, or romance together. It all feels somewhat disconnected, causing the film to lack much of an impact. Disorder isn't bad by any means; it just isn't anything special.
The screenplay may be lacking, but Winocour's visual work is solid. She implores a few interesting bits of camera work that aid in delivering tension, especially in the third act. The sound design proves to be an important element, as we begin to feel as if we're getting into the mind of this ex-soldier. By placing small sounds in the background, the viewer becomes paranoid that some threat could be lurking around any corner. The score is an electronic one that fits rather well. It's dark and immersive without making it feel as if we're in a dance club. There's a certain haunting tone that feels suitably consistent throughout the film, but she could have done more to prolong some of the moments of paranoia, rather than giving us the punchline of the scene almost as soon as the sequence begins.
The performances are fine, the direction is fine, and the plot is fine. While the film has its flaws, there isn't necessarily anything bad about Disorder. Everything about it remains somewhere in the middle of the road, which is ultimately what makes it feel forgettable. There are strong moments of tension, which are quickly diminished by a lack of patience on writer/director Alice Winocour's part. Vincent is an interesting character that we genuinely care for, but the same cannot be said about Jessie. The idea of this strange romance is enticing, but we aren't given enough scenes between the two of them that justifies it. Winocour plays with some interesting ideas, but she doesn't give certain elements the time to develop into something necessarily cohesive. Disorder is a haunting, albeit forgettable thriller that feels like it's holding back. Rent it.
Disorder will be playing at AFI FEST 2015 presented by Audi on November 7th and November 8th.