Director: Karyn Kusama
Destroyer is so well named – it should wreck you. The performances – in particular Nicole Kidman’s tour-de-force, the writing, the filming, the shape of the film, it’s all a slow-burn thrill-ride. And if there’s a best supporting player to Kidman’s scene-stealing/chewing/destroying role it’s the overall grit of the film, its dirty soul, its broken heart.
Kidman has never been better – and that’s saying something given the variety and depth of fantastic roles she’s created and served across the last decade/decade and a half in particular. But as much as she’s the star of the film – and I say ‘she’, Kidman is barely there, barely recognisable, buried so deeply into the character of Erin Bell, an LAPD detective who was forced to break cover years ago.
The shell of Erin Bell limps through this film, pathology of her soul dragging behind. I spent much of the film comparing Kidman’s efforts to those early, vital Dustin Hoffman performances. Building a character through the walk and the talk. So, croaky-voiced and permanently scowling, Bell is forced to confront the return of Silas (Toby Kebbell), the gang-leader she spent time with in her undercover role.
Skillful use of flashbacks tell the tale of when Erin and her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) were part of Silas’ notorious gang, in an effort to bring it down from within. These scenes are juxtaposed with the spent, broken, but resilient, stoic detective of today; a mum who is struggling to form any sort of relationship with her daughter, redemption in home life likely to never be possible until there’s closure in her professional life, or – possibly – vice-versa.
It’s as much a tone-poem about the bringing down of the self from within.
Destroyer moves with the purpose, creep and desert heat of the best Nine Inch Nails music – your skin almost crawling in reaction. Speaking of, composer Theodore Shapiro has contributed so vitally to this movie. The work of cinematographer Julie Kirkwood and editor Plummy Tucker also (so) crucial.
There’s a gut-punch to the first time you watch Destroyer.
And so I watched it again. Just days later. And was hit almost as hard again.
This film will ruin you. In the very best possible way. It’s virtuoso work from all key cast and crew. To take a simple revenge/procedural tale and twist it in just the right way. It’s a deceptively brilliant story. And the images, the very telling of the story, it burns deep into you.
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