The Treatment, a Belgian film adapted from Mo Hayder’s British crime novel of the same name, follows a police detective named Nick Cafmeyer who, despite his reputation for going too far, is nonetheless respected as one of the best. You can’t really blame him for it: when he was nine years old, his younger brother was abducted and never seen again, and the man he believes responsible, Ivan Plettinckx, not only lives just around the corner but takes frequent delight in tormenting Cafmeyer – as if he isn’t tormented enough. So when a new case involving a young, missing boy comes up, naturally Cafmeyer is there pushing the entire police department as hard as he can to get whoever’s responsible, whether there’s a connection to the events of twenty years ago or not.
The paragraph above only covers about the first fifteen minutes of the film, but I can’t really say any more as this is one of those films that pushes and misleads you this way and that, twist following twist, but, unlike something hokey like Gone Girl, you can believe in the film. It’s intricate, and unflinching, and slow, and bleak, but it’s ultimately satisfying because the writer and the director are not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, but rather respect their audience’s intelligence.
The cast are strong, too, but it’s Geert Van Rampelberg as Nick Cafmeyer that you’ll remember, and not just because he’s in almost every scene, but because of the intelligence and humanity of the character he plays. The brief description of Cafmeyer in the first paragraph above may have you rolling your eyes, because every cop in every cop film since Bullitt has been a cowboy cop on the edge who doesn’t play by the rules, but The Treatment just might feature the best and most realistically played iteration of the trope you’ll ever see. Rampelberg, and director Hans Herbots, really take the time to show us who this character is, what made him this way, what he’s like when he isn’t kicking ass in the name of justice. And like everything in this film, it isn’t pretty.
The film has a colour palette that consists almost entirely of black, grey, and an occasional very dark blue for colour. It isn’t a vibrant picture, but then this isn’t a vibrant story, and Herbots actually has the style and the skill to keep you interested, unlike a lot of directors who desaturate all the life out of their image because they’re not confident in their own ability to craft a compellingly dark story. Visually you’ll be reminded of classic police procedural/psychological thrillers Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs, but both of those films have a slight outlandishness to them, a touch of the comic book that the relentlessly sombre and realistic Treatment totally lacks. That said, the standout scene to me was the film at its most colourful, and a rare moment of wry humour to boot, where Cafmeyer wades into a swimming pool, dressed, but making sure to take off his coat and remove his gun first, to arrest a suspect who cowers in the middle of the pool. Cafmeyer shows an almost loving side as he carries him from the pool.
That scene takes place about ninety minutes into this two-hour, five-minute film, and if there’s a criticism, it’s that the whole way through, you never know when you’re close to the end. There’s always something respectable about a thriller that never needs to resort to physical action to keep the tension up, but at the same time a thriller should be, well, thrilling, and the slow pace coupled with the many twists can induce a little bit of fidgetiness, in me at least, though the last ten or so relentlessly gripping minutes make up for it. We don’t see many Belgian films here in the UK, but if there’s any justice then The Treatment will be recognised as one of the year’s strongest thrillers.
So what do you think about The Treatment? Let us know in the box below and be sure to visit Christian’s site Mediocre Batman!