New Order Synopsis: In the near future, a popular uprising in Mexico City interrupts a wedding held at the home of a wealthy family. After the riots have been quashed, they discover the bride (Naian González Norvind) has gone missing and plea with the military to help locate her.
Every festival season delivers a handful of wildly controversial titles. 2020’s New Order easily ranked as the most divisive of the bunch, scoring scathing responses from critics and director Michel Franco’s home country of Mexico. Claims of over-simplification and downright racist depictions of Mexico’s class disparity followed the film like a pervasive stench. To be fair, the extreme sensibility of festival audiences doesn’t always represent a film’s total merits (Inglorious Basterds was booed at Cannes).
With the film now reaching the masses, I can completely understand the extreme divide behind New Order’s reactions. Franco’s unrelenting and brutal vision of class warfare manhandles audiences with its abrasive delivery. In the writer/director’s assured hands, New Order delivers a compelling and occasionally articulate descent into human cruelty.
Franco’s no-nonsense sensibility whisks the audience into the heart of its brutal class divide. From the opening frames onward, the filmmaker jockeys between the high-class luxuries of a blissfully undisposed wedding versus the chaotic revolution surrounding the gated event. Painted with sharp green symbols of rebirth, the disenfranchised lower class soon breaks the invisible wall separating the two sides.
What ensues is a shocking display of depravity, both from the callously cold rich and the enraged poor populous. I can see many cry foul about simplistic depictions on both sides, but I viewed Franco’s archetypical delivery as a vulgar representation of both sides’ lingering distaste. Franco’s repurposing of historical events represents the dynamic at its most violent and provocative, mirroring the two group’s extremes to comment on our own world’s growing disparity. New Order dystopian worldview feels refreshingly grounded in real-world zeitgeist, with Franco’s poised hand never drifting into absurdist Hollywodized territory.
Franco’s frenetic verve behind the camera consistently keeps audiences on their toes. His penchant for steady long-takes displays impressive coordination and naturalism with every frame. This is a relatively low-budget effort, but Franco utilizes every bit of his assets to create a lively landscape. I also admire Franco for his tactful approach to the film’s occasionally vile content. By framing the anguished reactions rather than the violence itself, the director conveys unnerving horrors without a gratuitous edge.
New Order transfixed me through its brutal spell. I just wish its social commentary rendered a bit more onscreen. Franco’s film certainly isn’t one for subtlety, which can occasionally make its points feel laborsome in their heavy-handed delivery. The third act is perhaps the biggest perpetrator of this issue. The movie loses much of its dramatic steam in favor of a predictable and overly simplistic climax. It’s a shame Franco loses his ferocity when it matters most.
While it will certainly divide audiences, New Order‘s bold vision has a certain intoxicating allure. Franco creates a dynamic take on class warfare that won’t soon be forgotten.
New Order is now playing in select theaters.
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