From overheard snippets of whispered conversations, to grainy CCTV footage, to brief glances of figures that may or may not be there, Alice Winocour’s Disorder (2015) is filled with a growing sense of paranoia. It is a tone that perfectly reflects the disoriented mind of Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), a soldier struggling to hold on to both his role in the army and his own sense of reality due to his post-traumatic stress disorder. With the unexpected offer of a private security job, it isn't long before his condition is taking over his life, as the adrenaline rush of military operations is replaced by the slow meandering of silent corridors. Pretty soon we are questioning as much as he is whether everything we see onscreen is real...or if Vincent’s disorder really has got the better of him.
Vincent’s own point-of-view is used to clever effect in order to explore his condition, both in the storyline itself and through certain methods writer-director Winocour uses to portray his damaged mind. Rhythmic sounds – gun clips loading, boots stomping the ground, unknown beeps from a machine – are paired with pulsing techno beats to create a chaotic soundtrack that throws us off guard. It is a method particularly effective in the brief yet gripping opening sequence in which a group of non-descript soldiers in camouflage all run together before the thumping, jarring soundtrack takes over as we have our first glimpse of an ill at ease Vincent among them – a simple sequence that immediately introduces us to this character and his afflicted world. It is a powerful technique Winocour returns to throughout the film, showing us how Vincent can suddenly be caught out by the glimpse of a stranger who might be a threat (or who might not even be there) or a moment of sudden panic that makes his vision swim while he tries to regain control.
Despite the fascinating storyline and the ease with which writers Winocour and Jean-Stéphane Bron tell it, there can be no denial that the film is flawed in some aspects. While it is deliciously paced and utterly engrossing to watch for the first two thirds, on approaching the conclusion it loses steam, not least because of a sudden genre change that sees this swerve towards thriller territory (instead of the straight drama it has been up until this point). Winocour handles the action well, but this unexpected alteration means we lose sight of what this is really about – a man suffering with a terrible affliction and how it affects his life. As such Disorder ends with a whimper rather than a bang, with an ending as sudden and unexpected as one of Vincent’s attacks.
It is Vincent himself, or rather Matthias Schoenaerts, who keeps this watchable though, Schoenaerts delivering a passionate performance that is up there with his stellar turns in Rust and Bone (2012) and Bullhead (2011). His piercing stare is intense and soft at the same time, Schoenaerts perfectly portraying all of the pain and conflict within Vincent, even when he is silently stalking the hallways of the mansion he keeps guard. It is an endlessly impressive turn more than matched by Diane Kruger as Jessie, the wife of the wealthy businessman Vincent finds himself working for. She too pulls us in with a portrayal that is more about the silent glances of her character than what she says, Kruger’s performance subtly hinting at untold secrets within Jessie's family, and within herself.
A nuanced, thought-provoking depiction of PTSD and its effects, Disorder is a brilliant drama boosted by some interesting direction and some fantastic performances. Yet under the guise of a thriller as the film reaches its conclusion this quickly becomes a carbon copy of every other action film out there, and our attention is lost. It’s a shame: had Winocour stuck to the slow, detailed character portrayal that precedes this, Disorder would have easily been an exceptional film and a potential classic drama.
Disorder is available to rent or buy on video on demand platform We Are Colony (www.wearecolony.com), a website that offers a pleasingly varied array of titles, but which sadly seems currently overpriced for the market it is trying to compete against (£9.99 per film to buy to keep and £4.49 to rent, although prices do vary between titles). Where it does stand out is in the special features it offers – something not often seen on other VOD platforms. With various print interviews with Winocour, as well as a video Q and A with her and Diane Kruger available alongside the download of Disorder itself, this is certainly more of an incentive to purchase the film through this VOD service (however it should also be noted that these video interviews can already be viewed on YouTube. There are other titles that have extras exclusive to the website though). But after one watch of Disorder, it is hard to think of a time when you would in all actuality return to it.