Review by Camden Ferrell
Writer and director Michel Franco’s newest movie, New Order, premiered at the 2020 Venice Film Festival. It’s a movie that was conceived six years ago, but it somehow creates a dystopia that seems eerily relevant to today’s social and political climate. While Franco’s artistry is on full display in this movie, his message seems to get muddled in the chaos and senselessness of his own environment.
In Mexico, protests are rampant in the streets, and there is great unrest. Nearby, Marianne and her wealthy family are preparing for their wedding and having a gathering with their other high-class friends. However, the protestors soon come to crash the party and swiftly create chaos and class warfare. This is a really fascinating premise, and it has a lot of potential for action and strong and relevant themes.
Right off the bat, the movie is extremely tense from start to finish. Its opening act slowly crescendos until chaos erupts everywhere. In this regard, Franco excels at steadily raising tension until it comes to a head, and it’s one of the most commendable aspects of the film. For better or worse, the movie does not lose any steam at all in its runtime.
However, even though it is superficially entertaining, it sometimes lacks the depth that these social issues warrant. It’s so focused on the aesthetic and cinematic qualities of protests and riots without truly examining the conditions that lead to them. It hints at bigger themes that could have elevated the work, but it ultimately favors style over substance.
The movie has so many actors in such a short period of time that it was hard for any of them to stand out. If there was a lead actor, it would be Naian González Norvind who plays Marianne. She does a decent job at portraying the fear that comes with such brutality as shown in the movie. However, the rest of the cast is fairly forgettable.
This is a movie that will surely be misinterpreted by some viewers, and it’s partly the fault of Franco’s execution of certain key moments. It can sometimes come off as an indictment of the working class’ disdain for wealthy elites even though it appears Franco is merely telling a cautionary tale of a growing class divide. Either way, the chaos and graphic violence and assault muddle his message and will offput some viewers.
At under ninety minutes, the movie never loses momentum, but it ends much too soon. Franco could have easily spent another thirty minutes further developing his themes and characters, and this is why the film can feel somewhat exploitative. Horrific violence without the proper thematic exploration feels somewhat cheap and shallow. The movie is quite entertaining, but it definitely squanders its thematic potential.
New Order is a short, tense, and brutal story of class warfare. Its distinct chaotic visual style may not be for everybody, and it may lack the social awareness it warrants, but it’s an entertaining and brutal film.
New Order is in theaters May 21.