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2015年12月11日 星期五

Maryland (Disorder) (失常)

House invasion can be a thrilling cinematic experience like David Finchers's Panic Room (2002). One would have imagined that such house invasion thriller genre would normally be a male director's work. Not so, if we may judge by Maryland (Disorder)(失常) (2015). It's a film directed and co-written by Alice Winocour with Jean-Stéphen Bron

In this film a Special Squad French solider Vincent Loreau (Matthias Schoenaerts) who had seen action in Afghanstan and is suffering from Post-traumatic Distress Syndrome with occasional panic attacks and hearing noises is asked to go on leave. During such leave, he is co-copted to join in a commercial security assignment  by his buddy Denis (Paul Hamy) to protect a rich Lebanese merchant Imad Whalid (Percy Kemp) and his beautiful German-French wife Jessie (Diane Kruger) and his kid Ali (Zaïd Errroughi-Demonsant) in a French estate in Southern France fitted with all kinds of spy cameras and a control room covering almost all areas of the estate called Maryland first for a glamorous party where high profile politicians and financiers are involved and later when Whalid leaves on a business trip in Switzerland, to protect just his wife and kid. 

Nothing much happens during the party except that by accident he overheard his boss quarrelling about how to split the profits during a deal involving a Turk called Tarik (Chems Eddie) whose name was originally not on the guest list and who wanted to gate crash the party but was later allowed in after Vincent got clearance from his boss. Then after the party was over when Jessie took Ali to the beach, he found his car being tailed shortly after which someone tried to attack him and kidnap his charges. But due to his alertness and combat skill, his charges were safe. As the film develops, Maryland was invaded first by a masked man which he deftly liquidated. He advised Jessie to leave the house and stay with someone she could trust and asked her whether she got anyone. She said she had a friend in Canada but was reluctant to go. But he sensed that the situation appeared to be getting out of hand. He could not take care of the huge estate all by himself and asked Denis to come to his aid urgently. His instincts proved right. Three ninja-like masked men burgled in and we're in for one Hitchkok style tense moment after another as the psychological tension builds up until at the last moment, we see Vincent unmasking the attacker, killing him with his bare fists when he could well have disposed of him with a bullet. 

From the first moment he saw the beautiful Jessie, who first treated Vincent just like a servant, we see there gradually develop some subtle changes of attitude on the part of Jessie. First he had to ask for permission to eat leftover spaghetti from the servant in the kitchen , then he had to ask for permission to take a coffee in the kitchen whilst Jessie was there, then he started eating together at the same table with Jessie and Ali as a family. Then Jessie went into his room of her own accord to ask him if he needed help to dress the cut wound on his back after he suffered a cut on his back whilst dealing with the first intruder with Vincent declining the offer. Then when Jessie decided after the attack by the 3 masked men, to leave for Canada, expecting him to accompany her, he for some reason refused. When the film ends, it was his buddy Denis, a womanizer, who had to drive Jessie and Ali to the airport in his car. Then we see Vincent, alone in his room, packing his things, preparing to go. Without warning, we suddenly see Jessie behind him, putting her arms around him and we see his hands caressed hers. The film ends. 

It's an unusual thriller, very well done. We see how the tension gradually builds up and come to believe that all the edgy reactions of Vincent was not entirely the result of his paranoia, but may be that of his dedication to what he treated as his personal responsibility. Throughout the film, he seldom talks with Jessie. But his eyes did all the talking for him. He was alert, careful, attentive and protective and had her interest at the top of his mind at all times. He cared for her with what is most precious to himself: his body, his very life, which he had not the slightest hesitation in risking to make sure that she is safe. He need not, as a mere hired security help, have suggested to her to go to Canada. But he did. And he was sincere. And that speaks volumes.

A great deal of credit must be given Matthias Schoenaerts, whose body had an entirely convincing dominating physical presence and whose silence and whose intense stares had a psychological persuasiveness all their own, something enhanced by the constant focus of the roving camera on his face and his eyes. Not a little credit must be given to the sound effects which add  enormously to creating the verisimitude of the subjective pounding sounds and other noises creating suspicion of the house being broken in by real or imagined intruders heard by Vincent, through Vincent by us. It kept us sitting on the edge of our theatre seat. An
excellent psychological thriller.