In Karyn Kusama’s thriller DESTROYER Acting icon Nicole Kidman once again shows off her worn-out side and becomes the leading actress in a film that could be much better if the makers didn’t rely solely on that. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
A murder case like any other – or so it seems. Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman), a police officer in Los Angeles, is quickly proven wrong: Evidence at the crime scene suggests that a person from her past who was thought to be missing is back. Silas is the reason why Erin is now a shadow of her former self, a broken woman, destroyed inside and out, stumbling through her life like the undead. 17 years have passed since Erin first tracked down Silas as an undercover FBI agent. At that time the investigation ended in disaster. Now Erin sees the opportunity to make amends for her past sins and hunt down Silas. Whatever the cost…
Movie explanation of the ending
When Charlize Theron “made herself ugly” for the serial killer portrait “Monster” in 2003, she promptly won the Oscar for best actress. Since “The Machinist,” Christian Bale has subjected himself and his body to extreme diets in order to empathize with the characters he embodies as authentically as possible. And although Fatih Akin’s “The Golden Glove” was only recently torn apart by large sections of the press, everyone still agreed on one point: Jonas Dassler, who was made up beyond recognition to look like the Hamburg woman murderer Fritz Honka, deserved credit for his passionate and unpretentious Performance a lot of respect. So let’s summarize: Critics and viewers have always been fascinated when people change physically. That’s why Karyn Kusama’s thriller “Destroyer” received a lot of praise, as Hollywood star Nicole Kidman plays the leading role (“The lost Son”) fully committed to physical deterioration, while she also devotes herself to a murder case as an investigator. Both parts work individually or in combination. But Kidman’s self-sacrificing performance cannot hide the fact that the script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (who also wrote the script for Kusama’s “The Invitation”) never develops an emotional punch that does its protagonist justice.
Erin (Nicole Kidman) with her sixteen-year-old, rebellious daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn).
Even in the case of “Monster,” everyone pounced on leading actress Charlize Theron’s outstanding performance – simply because she dominated the entire film. “Destroyer” can hardly be handled any other way, because how stoic, worn-out and still emotionally fighting like a lioness Kidman fights through a no less run-down Los Angeles is really great cinema. Kidman always walks the fine line between pity, skepticism and sympathy; Her Erin Bell cannot be pigeonholed at all. When she visibly half-heartedly tries to reconcile with her estranged daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyhohn), who is threatening to go down the wrong path and for whom she has never been a good role model, there is even a little contempt mixed into this barely definable impression. What should we think of Erin? Is she now a bad mother, but at least willing to make sacrifices in her job? Does this “letting yourself go” possibly also have something to do with the latter, as does the constant violation of legal investigative methods? In “Destroyer,” the work and private life of the unattractive main character are connected at all times and create the picture of a highly complex character. You don’t have to like it until the end; Kidman never courts the audience’s sympathy in her performance. But it’s fascinating to watch Erin.
What remains stuck in their creativity is the story, which the authors Hay and Manfredi at least put together with the greatest possible ambition. In order for the twist planned from the beginning, which is largely reminiscent of a film by Denis Villeneuve, to be effective, they introduce us to their main character primarily through flashbacks, but they aren’t really meaningful. Erin’s past as an undercover investigator in particular consists mainly of generalities: a bank robbery, drifting into the illegal milieu and the love story between the investigators – instead of these events shaping the main character, it is primarily Nicole Kidman herself who is responsible for the uninspired stages in her Thriller gives meaning. The admittedly very nicely illustrated scenes (camera: Julie Kirkwood, “The Devil’s Daughter”) are ultimately business as usual for a thriller and take away the space to develop from those scenes in which the character portrait could be narratively advanced. Only once does one get the feeling that the full potential of the setting and plot is being exploited here: In all her desperation, Erin gives a potential informant a handjob. A scene performed by Kidman with the greatest possible disgust, which perfectly sums up her character and at the same time perfectly summarizes the status of the investigation.
In terms of look and feel, the makers completely adapt to her character. The desaturated colors and the almost lazy score by Theodore Shapiro (“Just a small favor”) lie like a cloak of inhibiting fog over the metropolis of Los Angeles, which is otherwise primarily filmed at its best. This slowing feeling also affects the pace and rhythm in general: The 121 minutes of “Destroyer” feel significantly longer, not least because of the way Karyn Kusama jumps back and forth between time levels and settings. A lot of the filling material could be removed without replacement. Entire dialogues sometimes just repeat what other scenes have already expressed much more clearly and effectively. Nevertheless, this is precisely why the script manages to fool the viewer quite cleverly. This applies not only to the twist, which – regardless of whether it has been done before or not – definitely comes as a surprise, but also to Erin’s unconventional investigative methods. “Destroyer” is at least not predictable. Remarkably brutal. Karyn Kusama not only enforces the violence in its execution in detail, but also relies particularly on its aftermath. Especially in the last ten minutes, what Kidman’s character experiences here hurts just to watch. And then at the latest it makes sense again that so much emphasis was placed on showing her as physically worn out as possible.
Conclusion: “Destroyer” lives entirely from an outstanding Nicole Kidman. Despite visible ambitions, the story and its production unfortunately cannot keep up with what the actress triggers in the audience through her acting alone.
“Destroyer” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from March 14th.