Current Issue #488

Film Review:
The Decline

In Netflix’s first Quebec production, co-writer and director Patrice Laliberté delivers a brisk but intense psychodramatic action-thriller that touches on some seriously disturbing themes.

Originally in French (but you can watch it in poorly-dubbed English if you really must), this features fine performances from an unfamiliar cast, stark snowbound locales and strong violence, often when you least expect it.

First up we meet Antoine (Guillaume Laurin), who wakes up his wife and young daughter in the dead of night in one of many rehearsals for what he thinks is the impending end of civilisation (the French title Jusqu’au Déclin literally means ‘Until The Decline’). They’re ready to evacuate in the event of a nuclear attack or epidemic (oops, too late!), but Antoine wants to learn more and arranges to spend several days at a secret isolated training camp run by star survivalist (if such a thing is possible) Alain (Réal Bossé).

Alain has quite a set-up, featuring cabins, a greenhouse, a generator, solar panels and more, and on the first night Antoine mixes with guests including former military types Rachel (Marie-Evelyne Lessard) and David (Marc Beaupré), and pro hunter Sebastien (Guillaume Cyr), while Alain loftily talks of being a “lucid citizen”. However, the next day an exercise involving a pipe bomb leads to an accidental death, and soon Alain and his henchman turn on them, with the plot transforming into a powerfully suspenseful variation on that creaky old favourite, The Most Dangerous Game.

Directed by Laliberté in freezing conditions in rural Nord-du-Québec, this is a mere 83 minutes and stripped right back to the bone but, nevertheless, we still feel for the characters as they start meeting their awful fates. And yes, the central message is clear: Alain might well think that one should prepare for the worsening violence and savagery of modern society, but he’s also more than happy to dish out some hardcore violence and savagery himself the moment he feels threatened.

It’s the end of the world as we know it – in more ways than one.

Reviewer Rating

The Decline (MA) is now streaming on Netflix

DM Bradley

See Profile

Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox

Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox