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Vincent Loreau (Matthias Schoenaerts), a French Special Forces soldier just back from Afghanistan, is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is hired to ensure the safety of Jessie, the wife of a wealthy Lebanese businessman in his "Maryland" property in the South of France. While he feels a strange fascination for the woman he must protect, Vincent is prone to anxiety and hallucinations. Despite the apparent tranquility on "Maryland", Vincent perceives an external threat...Written by
The film came to life after director Alice Winocour found herself interested in war photographers who talked about the difficult return to normal life, after having seen death and the horrors of combat. One thing led to another and she decided to meet with soldiers coming home from Afghanistan, they talked about their fears, their anxiety, their mental distress and their inner violence. Vincent's character was born from all these encounters. Winocour also told that her inspirations for the film were the images of photographers Gregory Crewdson and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Each, in their own way, create a fusion between horror film and documentary tradition. See more »
Winocour directs beautifully, Schoenaerts acts and acts, and only the writing pulls this down
Alice Winocour's thriller set in upper class France is filled with anxiety, and is filmed very smartly to increase that stress without resorting to pyrotechnics. Quietly, especially because of the edgy psychological performance by Matthias Schoenaerts, we feel the anxiety of an ex-soldier fighting PTSD and still doing private high brow security work.
The setting is interesting but the plot is thin. This can work for the film, which depends on lots of quiet moments to punch up the drama when it occurs. The direction is really good, with some simple strategies at play. Example—when our main character, who is guarding someone off in the distance, is sensing danger, his eyes flit around, he stiffens up and walks and look, but the one thing the camera doesn't do is show us the person he's protecting. In the dark, we worry, and we don't know if the danger is real or if he's just too high strung.
Seeing the inside of a high level security detail is nice, and it's handled with good realism. The whole movie, in fact, depends on a simple believability that typical Hollywood versions would ramp up, and it works.
The big downside here is the writing. There isn't enough to the overall plot after all (and Schoenaerts can't do everything). And some of the dialog is unlikely or a big out off kilter. Sucked into the mis-en-scene, you can go with it, at least until the long stretch at the end in the house, when you do wish it hadn't trapped itself into a series of well worn ideas.
The last several seconds of the movie do show that the director/writer is capable of more than you'll find here. It might be unexplained, but it leaves at least still immersed as you leave the film's finely rendered world.
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