Disorder/Maryland (2016)

Written for RAF News March 2016

Back from service in Afghanistan as part of the French Special Service, Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) shows signs of post-traumatic stress and so finds some private security work before he can return – if he can return. His judgement seems to be clouded though by his apparent disorder as he struggles to tell apart real threats from paranoid delusions.

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“A lot like Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive but takes itself very seriously.”

Vincent is a brooding figure who shows little more than his vigilant drive to protect. The first half of the film is an interesting and stylised exploration of his state of mind in which we experience a job from his perspective. Hired initially as security for a wealthy Lebanese businessman who is hosting a party, we observe potential threats whilst the overpowering bass of dance music drowns out all voices and throws your focus.

The use of penetrating sound and the uncomfortably closed in shots of Vincent’s face as he stalks guests through the crowd works well to overwhelm your senses and create palpable tension. This discomforting paranoia will plague the entire film and create some extremely suspenseful scenes.

Schoenaerts is great without even having to speak. He acts with his body, showing a raw animalistic quality that has him physically restrained until he can find an outlet. He is threatening, even to the family he is hired to ‘babysit’ when the businessman leaves town. It is only when Vincent is left alone, protecting the client’s wife (Diane Kruger) and son that the threats seem to become more real, but how certain can he be?

At first it feels as though Disorder will be a thoughtful but very different take on PTSD. But this message is abandoned half way into the film as it quickly becomes more of a genre film, an action thriller. It remains stylised and tries to hold on to the drama but it becomes almost a horror film by the end. As a result the message of Disorder is lost, albeit to very tense and involving action.

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This sudden plummet into a different genre changes the way in which you view Vincent and ultimately it creates a very unclear message. In ghost films there is often a character who warns everyone else, who senses a presence and is usually laughed at until the doubters are mutilated by said presence. The film aligns with this position because the idea of there not actually being a threat is less interesting for this kind of film. In Disorder, Vincent senses ‘the presence’ but it is clearly fallout from his PTSD, until it isn’t. Until the point where his paranoia comes true. I am not sure what is to be inferred by this? Is his disorder practical? Does he even have a disorder or is he just some clairvoyant Jason Bourne? It seemed like a cheap way to cash in on the tension created up until the last act. A cop out from creating non-action drama.

Even still the film was different enough to be compelling. The style was interesting even if there weren’t many realised characters or much of a story. It felt a lot like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive – a taciturn father surrogate brutally kills bad guys with supposed moral justification, shown with European flare through the striking visuals and an important score -but Disorder seems to take itself more seriously, pretending to be something more, something deeper… for an hour at least.

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