THE WASHINGTON POST – The Mexican writer-director Michel Franco wields the story like a scalpel in New Order, his diabolically imaginative dystopian fever dream of modern-day inequality and corruption.
At the elegant wedding of Marianne and Alan, held in the meticulously appointed courtyard of Marianne’s wealthy parents, the honoured couple engage in a dance while their friends chatter and party around them. It’s a swirl of high fashion and sophistication, but outside the security fences, the tension is palpable. Mexico City is under siege, with a guerrilla force making its threatening presence felt by throwing green paint on cars, people and into the water system.
It’s inevitable that the war will come home in New Order, but just how and with what anarchic destruction are anything but predictable. With elegant camera movements and sharp, emphatic editing, Franco constructs a world that feels only slightly futuristic. The Mexico City of New Order is but a nanosecond removed from the chaos and moral decay that ensues from obscene wealth disparities, cynicism and graft within the police and military, the privatisation of basics such as safety and medical care, and the corrosion of human empathy. As Marianne, Naian González Norvind flawlessly portrays a child of privilege whose decency and naivete take her ever deeper into the bowels of Mexico’s criminal culture of kidnapping and bribery; Franco pointedly dresses her in a gorgeous red pantsuit, the better for viewers to place her as she embarks on a Dante-like journey into squalor.
New Order recalls 2019’s Oscar-winning Parasite, but unlike that film’s superficial rich-people-bad/Quentin-Tarantino-good message, this one is far more grounded, both in reality and genuinely original thinking. (No ideology is spared in a critique that is as hard on socialism as it is on predatory capitalism.) Viewers will pick up Franco’s most obvious cinematic references, which range from that lush, Godfather-esque opening wedding sequence to Children of Men and the pulpy Purge movies. Still, he’s anything but derivative. He creates his own aesthetic logic in a film that can feel perfunctory at times but winds up being just as pitiless as the universe he depicts.
The word “tragedy” is often overused. Throughout this taut, ruthlessly propulsive thriller, that’s the word that comes to mind, in its most classical, grievously fatalistic sense.