One or two decent ideas aren’t enough to stop The Decline from descending into rote genre territory, and its mean streak is more tedious than genuinely shocking.
Patrice Laliberté’s French-Canadian survivalist thriller The Decline, new on Netflix today, is about isolated people viciously turning on each other, which means it’s just about the most current flick available anywhere this weekend. If you’re in the mood for something bloody and action-packed with the explicit purpose of reminding you of humanity’s capacity for cruelty, hate, and violence, you’re in the right place – which is hopefully at home, given the circumstances.
There are some decent ideas in The Decline, though it’s reticent to unpack them in any meaningful way. But the thought of an obsessive doomsday-prepper becoming so enamoured by an online survivalist influencer that he packs up and heads to his self-sufficient, isolated training camp is just funny enough that you wish the film itself had embraced the black comedy and run with it.
No luck in that regard. The ostensibly family-oriented Antoine (Guillaume Laurin) is largely the audience POV character, but the film cycles between its pivotal viewpoints as influencer Alain (Réal Bossé) runs the volunteer group through various survival drills which eventually culminate in the least-experienced member, François (Marc-André Grondin), being involved in an accident and the camp splitting into conflicting groups.
The secondary characters – David (Marc Beaupré), Rachel (Marie-Evelyne Lessard), Sabastien (Guillaume Cyr), and Hélène (Isabelle Giroux) – enjoy little in the way of development, even if they are mostly convincing in their desire to be anywhere else. They’re largely just avenues for action and violence, neither of which are in short supply despite an initial reluctance to descend into the primitive survivalist mindset they all coveted in the first place. You know how these things are.
Despite its promise, though, The Decline quickly lives up to its title, relying on formulaic thrills right through a faintly tedious final act that amounts to very little worth remembering. As a cautionary tale in these trying times, The Decline works to remind us that our quarantine could be a lot worse.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.