New Order clues us in immediately to fear green. It's the color of paint used by the story's revolutionaries in their uprising, as we see in an opening montage. People and cars splashed with it have found themselves in the middle of the war zone. Plenty of red blood can be found in the picture, too, yet it's the green that sends chills up our spines. Writer/director Michael Franco's Spanish-language drama is brutal and political, a stark warning of what could happen if economic injustice continues to grow at its current rate. The movie will scare all the right people and leave everyone else unnerved.
Marianne (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) is about to marry her fiancée. A big wedding is being held at the home of her wealthy parents. All the guests are high-society types, politicians, etc. They know that violent protests are going on out in the street, but such acts are viewed as a minor inconvenience. Wealth has largely shielded them from events outside their bubble. A former employee shows up unexpectedly, asking for money so that his wife can have emergency surgery. Marianne's mother tries to placate him, her brother Daniel (Diego Boneta) tries to intimidate him, and she offers to help him.
A lot happens in New Order, but here's the gist: The protests are being carried out by people who want to overthrow the rich and establish just what the title infers. Several of them get over the walls and wreak havoc upon the wedding. After briefly leaving the house to help the man's wife, Marianne is kidnapped and held for ransom, along with other well-connected individuals. Disturbing forms of torture are carried out if money isn't forthcoming.
Franco is dealing with a number of related themes here. At one level, New Order is about how the 1% are oblivious to the suffering of the poorest citizens. The movie theorizes that, if gone on for too long, this could spur an eventual uprising to flip the scales. On another level, though, we can clearly see that the revolution is poorly organized, with the “have-nots” behaving even worse than the “haves.” Whereas many folks cling to a belief that leveling out the economic playing field will bring calmness, this movie suggests the exact opposite.
Regardless of your opinion on the issue, New Order will challenge it. A pessimistic quality infuses the film, which seems to say that 1.) money corrupts, no matter who has it; and 2.) our socioeconomic system is so broken that it might be beyond repair. Why would anyone want to see a picture that focuses so incessantly on the negative? For starters, it raises issues we need to discuss. Franco's world isn't quite here yet; there's still time for us to avoid the fate he portrays. We just have to pay attention.
Quality filmmaking is the other reason. Norvind is excellent as Marianne, a good soul who gets sucked into a vortex of anger that she doesn't belong in. The actress convincingly conveys the horror her character experiences upon realizing how dire the situation has become. New Order is also stylishly-made, with scenes at the house having visual elegance that's contrasted by griminess once the story ventures outside the walls. Franco has a real gift for generating tension, too. Watching this movie without feeling your muscles tighten is virtually impossible.
Running a tight eighty-eight minutes, New Order is the kind of bold, provocative work that deserves to be seen and discussed.
out of four
New Order is rated R for disturbing and violent content, rape, graphic nudity, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.