Karyn Kusama captures Nicole Kidman as we’ve never seen her before in the edgy crime drama, Destroyer. Washed up, jaded and broken LAPD detective Erin Bell (Kidman) confronts her shady past when a dangerous foe from her undercover days sends an ominous message and opens up old wounds.
The narrative is enigmatically split between Erin’s present pursuit for justice and insightful glimpses of her past. Her story slowly unravels as each lead and interrogation triggers memories from her tumultuous time undercover as a member of Silas’ (Toby Kebbell) gang. We see how the lines between cover story and reality blur the longer she stays embedded with the gang. Of course, having a hunky partner doesn’t hurt either.
“The more we learn about him, it is easy to understand Erin’s urgency in taking him out…”
As a young cop, the department puts a lot of faith in Erin and pairs her with an experienced undercover agent. Chris (Sebastian Stan) takes her under his wing as they develop a passionate relationship while infiltrating Silas’ gang and gaining the trust of his inner circle, including his girlfriend Petra (Tatiana Maslany). Over time, it is clear that Silas is a loose cannon with violent and sociopathic tendencies. The more we learn about him, it is easy to understand Erin’s urgency in taking him out.
Kidman is the heart of Destroyer. Her remarkable performance carries this film. She seamlessly showcases two extremes of her life experiences. We see her as a youthful, optimistic newbie falling in love with her partner and her job. Juxtapose that with the withered, hardened and battered detective we see today.
“Her eyes convey so much regret, conviction, desperation, and heaviness.”
It isn’t the fact that we see Kidman with wrinkles, ashy skin, and grayish hair. Her eyes convey so much regret, conviction, desperation, and heaviness. It is true; we’ve never seen Kidman in a role like this before. We’ve seen her brilliant talent shine through a variety of disguises, but there has always been a sense of grace about her. This is arguably her darkest role to date because Erin is unabashedly rough around the edges, cunning, and fearless – to a dangerous degree.
Kusama’s directing is very purposeful, and she carefully unravels an interesting story. Suspense lingers for the most part, but there are some slow moments that drag a bit. The supporting cast is sensational. Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, and Bradley Whitford all have stand-out scenes with Kidman. Destroyer is a good film, but it is Kidman’s nuanced performance that takes it to the next level.
Destroyer (2018) Directed by Karyn Kusama. Written by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi. Starring Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford.
8 out of 10 stars