Directed by Patrice Laliberté, this French-Canadian thriller ‘The Decline‘ is made by Couronne Nord and distributed through Netflix. It had its premiere at the Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma film festival under its original title ‘Jusqu’au déclin.’ There are some minor spoilers in this review.
Antoine (Guillaume Laurin) is a wannabe survivalist living in rural Quebec. He trains his family in storing supplies and evacuation while watching an internet web series on hunting, trapping, and food storage by Alain (Réal Bossé). He gets the opportunity to go the training camp run by Alain and do a course with other candidates: former military officer Rachel (Marie-Evelyne Lessard), hunter Sebastien (Guillaume Cyr), the charming Francois (Marc-André Grondin), old school Anna (Marilyn Castonguay), and paramilitary enthusiast David (Marc Beaupré). They take time learning from the charismatic Alain who teaches them about target-shooting, setting traps, cooking, and more. Everything seems to be going okay, but when Francois is killed while trying to dispose of a homemade bomb, the group begins to fall apart from the paranoia as they are divided about what they should do.
I want to praise the music done by Jason Sharp. It really adds a lot to the movie and it is the source of most of the tension. I also really enjoyed the cinematography by Christophe Dalpé. It showed a tremendous amount of talent, especially when the characters were outdoors.
As for the rest, the movie suffered from the same problems I have with European cinema. It has very bad dialogue and leans too much on stereotypes. David is portrayed as this evil paramilitary type who loses his mind through paranoia. His dialogue was pulled from every pamphlet on gun owners written by a politically correct pundit. He had no depth and it shows very early on.
He was not the only one. The dialogue written for every character felt forced and hammy. Only Bossé’s dialogue was given any thought, but not much. This put a profound hamper on the movie, making it seem dull and uninteresting. Even as the action started to ramp up, the dialogue was so lacking it was hard to take seriously.
Also, the film spends too much time on showing the characters just enjoying themselves in the camp. It has a shorter running time, which is in itself not bad, but it left no room for character development or tension-building, making it feel like time was wasting away. With this in mind, it became clear it was going to spend way too much time making gun owners, survivalists, naturalists, and climate change skeptics look like paranoid scumbags, leaving no time for a clear story.
One final note, and this is where the spoiler comes in, Antoine is presented as the main film protagonist pretty much from the opening shot. He is given most of the attention from the beginning, but then has his arc come to a slow and disastrous end with no reason or plot importance. The conclusion is shoved onto Rachel’s character with no context, so you felt cheated.
Bottom line, The Decline has some good technical aspects, but suffers from poor writing, lack of character depth, a disappointing conclusion, and politically correct nonsense that bogs down your interest.
FAVORITE QUOTE: The peace that we’re accustomed to these days is hanging by a thread.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Foul language, Strong violence
Check out the trailer below:
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