A Declining Third Act
The Decline is a great example of a film that executes beautifully on its premise before frustratingly throwing it away in the third act. What begins as a social experiment, diving into the human psyche and asking questions about how prepared we really are when society descends into chaos, instead morphs into a generic, action-packed thriller that ends on a whimper rather than a roar.
The story itself revolves around Antoine, a man who heads up to a remote mountainous training camp for a crash course in survivalism. Led by the enigmatic, level-headed Alain, a group of seven individuals join together to become fully prepared in the event of a global catastrophe.
As the group debate about whether it’ll be immigration or climate change that spells the end of times, it’s ironically something far closer to home that triggers this wave of panic and chaos as an accident at the camp sees the group divided and fighting for survival.
The third act of the film switches up the pacing and with it, injects a lot more action and violence into proceedings. With a lot of the film dominated by snow and mountainous locales, the inevitable bloodshed that follows stands out a lot more starkly than it otherwise would. Having said that, the film itself does have a fair amount of gruesome scenes and while this is far from an outright slasher, The Decline does dabble a little in this genre from time to time.
While the story and pacing are both inconsistent, the camera work and scene composition is strong throughout. Early on the shots depict weapons in the background – a lovely dose of foreshadowing – while the end fight boasts a really impressive long shot with action taking place inside a room, obscured from the camera which sticks to the hallway.
Unfortunately The Decline doesn’t have enough consistency to nail its ending and it’s this third act that ultimately acts as an anchor that weighs the rest of the film down. There are some positives here though and there’s a good injection of tension at times, but The Decline doesn’t always gel its ideas together with enough cohesion to make it a memorable film.
The Decline isn’t an awful thriller per-se, and there’s enough here to pick out individual moments to make it worth a one-time watch, but instead of a social experiment that acts as a commentary to how people would react in a situation like this, the film abandons that in favour of violence and action-packed thrills. It’s a shame but unfortunately The Decline is an underwhelming thriller that’s unlikely to conjure up much in the way of thrills when the final credits roll.