Director: Alice Winocour
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger
Watch Disorder online in the UK: Netflix UK / BFI Player / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Matthias Schoenaerts is one of the most in-demand actors around. But how would you describe him? Is he a romantic lead (Far from the Madding Crowd), a brutal, macho type (Rust & Bone), a straight man fit for dark comedy (A Bigger Splash) or a mix of all of them?
He’s in action mode in Disorder, a thriller that lets the actor flex his pecs as well as his paranoia. He plays Vincent, an Afghanistan veteran who takes on a security gig between missions. Quietly stalking through a lavish party on the French Riviera in a dark suit, he more than looks the part. But this is no mindless thug: Schoenaerts brings a disarming shade of melancholy to his muscle-man.
Vincent agrees to stay on as a minder for the family – namely his wife, Jessie (Diane Kruger) and their son. With the man of the house away, Vincent is on full alert, as he watches for possible peril lurking in the shadows around the expansive esate. But how much of the danger is in his head?
Director Alice Winocour dives into his distrust with delicious skill. “How much did you hear?” his shady businessman boss asks, after Vincent eavesdrops on some dodgy dealings. “Nothing,” he replies – and you can almost believe him. The film’s sound design is impeccable, periodically flooding our ears with static and high-pitched ringing, before letting it fade out to silence once more. The result immerses us in Vincent’s sharp, but increasingly skewed, senses, leaving us, like our hero, perpetually on edge.
It’s a masterclass in limited perspective that Hitchcock would admire; the pulsing synth soundtrack drives up the tension, even when there’s no sign of a legitimate threat, while brief snatches of background dialogue hints at something more going on. By the time we reach the halfway mark, we’re not sure whether Vincent is out of control or the only one in the loop.
The script, co-written by Winocour with Jean-Stephane Bron, descends somewhat into convention come the final act, as the movie has to deliver on or dismiss the promised potential violence. But there’s a stylish efficiency that impresses throughout, as Winocour smoothly switches gears without losing pace.
The result is an occasionally flawed story but a consistently gripping showcase for a superb cast. Diane Kruger brings a chemistry with Schoenaerts to the table that hinges, refreshingly, on caution; their best scene together doesn’t involve them snogging behind her hubby’s back, but sees her flirt with another security officer, while Vincent watches on, impassively.
And, at the heart of the film, Matthias Schoenaerts. The actor makes for a broodingly broken lead, giving us an insight into post-traumatic stress that, like the film’s abridged title, doesn’t need to spell out his character’s psychological condition. He moves with an intimidating physical presence, but displays the kind of pained vulnerability that Gerard Butler’s character in London Has Fallen dreams of having. He’s swooningly attractive, but closed off from the world. He’s cool and collected, but slowly falling apart. It’s the kind of old-school performance that Ryan Gosling was praised for in Drive, and the kind that has defined Matthias’ understated career – a role that can’t easily be pinned down. A lesser star might have been pigeoned by now into a heartthrob or blockbusting hole, but Schoenaerts continues to show a fascinating range in his choice of projects. What kind of performer is he? It’s hard to say. But after Disorder, you can’t wait to see what he does next.
Disorder is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription.
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