Over the past decade, with a number of conflicts in foreign lands, the effects of PTSD have been examined in media with greater scrutiny than at any other time in history. There are some soldiers who feel that the focus on PTSD related issues is overblown, and while the effects are real the added scrutiny gives an unfair portrait of soldiers returning home as ticking time bombs of violence ready to explode at a moment’s notice. With Disorder, the new film from director Alice Winocour, the story follows one solider ridden with the effects of PTSD as he tries to acclimate into the world working as a security guard for a wealthy family. Disorder is a film that comes close to being engrossing cinema, but keeps its subjects at too much of distance to truly resonate, though it certainly does have a few shocking surprises mixed into the fray.
While waiting to see if he’s medically cleared to return to active duty in the military, Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts) takes a job with his friend Denis (Paul Hamy) working private security for a wealthy Lebanese businessman, Imad Whalid (Percy Kemp). A real mover and shaker, Whalid’s guests include the elite of France including the Prime Minister. When Whalid is called away for a two-day trip, Vincent stays to watch over Whalid’s wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and their young son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant). But Vincent isn’t fully in control, and suffers from a series of ailments for which he seeks medication from fellow vets for. Making matters more complex, Vincent slowly builds an infatuation for Jessie, and the two strike up a mostly civil friendship. At the Swiss border, Whalid is arrested and Vincent thinks that things are going to get dangerous. Despite a few moments of doubt, Vincent’s fears are soon realized.
Director Alice Winocour and her co-writers Jean-Stéphane Bron, Robin Campillo, and Vincent Poymiro keep information withheld about the characters and their situations for far too long for Disorder to be truly engaging on every level that’s aiming for. Aside from his problems with PTSD, we know very little about Vincent, his past, his present, or his aspirations aside from rejoining the military. The same could be said of Whalid and Jessie, though we’re given more information about them as the film progresses. Now, the withholding of information does lead to some of the film’s most effective surprises, but they’re just a few effective moments that take place among a cold and distant story.
Disorder comes close to being an effective drama with elements of a home invasion story. Matthias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger give solid performances but are undermined by the underwhelming writing. This is very much a film that could’ve benefited greatly from more moments of character, and more information about the dangerous world these characters inhabit. Alice Winocour shows moments of great visual strength and a knack for lulling the audience before shocking them, but the director is never able to bring all these pieces together in a truly captivating whole. Disorder is a film with its own disorder, a film that would’ve been made much better had it been able to decide if it wanted to be a drama or home invasion thriller.