Destroyer is Karyn Kusama’s powerful gender-subversion that follows Police Detective Erin Bell as she investigates the murder of an all too-familiar victim from her past, while simultaneously fulfilling her own demand for revenge, making things very personal.
Following an unrecognisable Nicole Kidman whose wiry, slender limbs along withher tight-fitting, unfashionable wardrobe, transform her into a terrifying looking scarecrow, Bell doesan excellent job of keeping those she encounters at a distance.
In embodying Bell, Kidman demonstrates such stiff, mechanical movements, as if she barely has the life to carry her over the films two hour runtime. At first, I was afraid Kidman was going to go capital B big, the skepticism of any character-actor performance was setting in. But that fearful anxiety vanished as soon as Kidman did, because she disappears into this role. This is a subtle, understated performance, one that our protagonist knows not to exaggerate or turn into a caricature because it is already so self-spoken.
This film is the perfect vehicle to serve Nicole Kidman’s critics. She covers all bases from breathtaking outbursts of violence, to reserved moments of inner conflict, both of which demonstrate her wrestling with her past.
However, the film banks a lot on Kidman’s transformation, and is unfortunately not as formally inventive as its protagonist, making for a generic, join the dots first act. But it soon takes the pressure from her shoulders and really starts to generate some heat with two intense, heart-pounding set pieces I had to watch through the gaps between my fingers.
Combined with a stellar supporting cast made up of Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy and Toby Kebbell, and the use of long, engaging tracking-shots, it will have you immersed in this sleazy world of crime from the get go . It tastefully plays with misdirection, without robbing you of important information or deceiving its audience, avoiding forced sentimentality and instead trusts itself to patiently earn its pay off.
I’m not sure if it was Kusama’s bold, aggressive attack on the film noir genre, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi’s carefully-structured screenplay, or Nicole Kidman’s Oscar-worthy performance that made this film so great.
But I do know that Destroyer is my favourite film of the year so far.
Words by Liam Docherty