Nicole Kidman has clearly earned her rank among the greatest actresses of our generation and is one the most recognizable names in Hollywood. This is precisely what makes her completely transformative and unrecognizable portrayal of a morally gray, physically and emotionally damaged LAPD Cop in Destroyer that much more impressive. It’s genuinely shocking, makes for a brutal watch, and all the while you’re left thinking there’s absolutely no possible way this is Nicole Kidman. The amount of nuance Kidman put into every eye movement, every lethargic hobble, and every blunt cynical word to come out of her mouth is first class and truthfully, work we’ve never seen from her before. It’s a Best Actress worthy performance that is sure to be recognized come awards season. However, it’s not just the egregious amount of physical acting Kidman sells, its the utterly unsympathetic and destructive nature, as the title suggests, of the character and her relationships that help elevate not only her performance, but the entire film to new heights.
Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer follows LAPD Detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) years after a long term undercover operation completely derailed creating a life altering trauma that has haunted her to her core. When a murder victim’s body is recovered, Bell finds herself at the scene of the crime only to recognize that the act was almost certainly committed by a man named Silas (Toby Kebbel), a shadow from her past. As the the film progresses the audience is taken not only on a murder mystery, but a journey uncovering he harsh truth behind the now weathered Bell.
Kusama’s approach to the film is meditative with many slow and drawn out camera movements, at times too drawn out ultimately causing some pacing issues, and carefully places the audience inside the head of our troubled main character (I hesitate to call her a protagonist because she isn’t that clear cut). Kusama doesn’t shy away from showing the drear reality Bell lives in. Her relationship with her daughter is in dismay, only causing more harm than good, and she’s fundamentally broken as a person with nothing but her past mistakes consuming her thoughts, yet equally driving her to seek redemption. It’s a fascinating character study that’s further enhanced by Kusama’s decisions to play into some stylized noir elements and double down on the true crime feel. Narratively, Destroyer is told in such a distinct and interesting way utilizing flashbacks and present time to not only shed some light on Bell’s case, but shed some light on her as a person. When all the pieces eventually come together at the end, the payoff is simply satisfying. I guess you could say Kidman and Kusama destroyed it with this one.
Toronto International Film Festival Review: Destroyer
Production Companies: Anapurna Pictures, 30West, Automatik Entertainment
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy
Rated R, 123 Min
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