Titane is the sort of horror revenge-thriller in which every detail is a spoiler. Violent, shocking (sometimes shockingly violent) twists are so common in the first half that any revelation would take away from the high-octane viewing experience Titane promises – and delivers on.
Starring Agatha Rousselle as dancer-turned-imposter Alexia, Titane is mostly centred around the efforts of the tortured girl to reinvent herself after committing a heinous crime. Most of her life is already scandalous, but the trouble she can’t seem to avoid doesn’t help. Scarred by a childhood car crash which left her with a man-made brain implant (hence “Titane”, French for titanium) Alexia has a fetish for everything metallic. Take from that what you will.
Rousselle shines in these early scenes, in which we’re introduced to her chaotic life. When Alexia is forced to flee and pretends to be the runaway child of fire station chief Vincent (Vincent Lindon), the plot takes over somewhat. But Alexia never loses control of her unique place in the story, even if Rouselle inexplicably doesn’t get top billing. Alexia’s relationship with Vincent and his adopted son firefighters is the predominant plot in Titane, which evolves from a shock-heavy revenge rampage to something a little more subtle.
Ducournau nails the landing, although in its final moments Titane returns to an unnecessary subplot, with a ticking time bomb finally exploding in the last scene. This Cronenberg-inspired side of the story, introduced early, was taken over by more interesting events. But Titane must return to it at some point, and does, to imperfect effect.
Ducournau’s second feature is nonetheless an eventful and always entertaining ride which will please genre fans and the uninitiated alike. With enough guts and gore to shock without necessarily traumatising, Titane knows it’s for the mainstream as much as the sadomasochistic. But it’s not for the faint-hearted.