Destroyer: LFF Film Review

Everyone is talking about Nicole Kidman‘s transformation in Destroyer and there is a reason for that – it is jaw-droppingly incredible and she looks almost unrecognisable, and her performance is top notch too.

She stars as Erin Bell, a hardened LAPD detective who arrives on the scene of a murder and realises an old enemy named Silas (Toby Kebbell) must be back and she sets about tracking him down and getting revenge, by any means necessary. Through flashbacks we learn her connection with Silas and how she once infiltrated his gang as part of an undercover operation with fellow cop Chris (Sebastian Stan).

It’s hard to talk about this film without putting the focus on Kidman’s appearance. She really lets herself be ugly. Bell’s skin is skin-damaged, her nose has a bump, her hair in frazzled and her eyes are dull and rimmed with red. Her gait is different too, like putting one foot in front of the other is a challenge, and if she’s permanently under the influence. While this psychical transformation is impressive, it is also a bit distracting. You are not simply watching the drama, you are thinking ‘I can’t believe that’s Nicole Kidman’. It takes your attention away from the movie.

Kidman has transformed in the past but this is probably her most radical look. She is fearless in the way she throws herself into the role. Bell takes matters into her own hands and takes on her enemies herself in a way we usually see men do. There is no lightness to her character, she is bitter and depressed all the time and Kidman fully embraces that hardness with her captivating performance.

There are plenty of supporting characters but this is Kidman’s film so they don’t get true opportunities to shine, although Tatiana Maslany, playing a gang member, has a fantastic, bloody scene with Kidman. I would have liked a bit more of her. Stan is the cute love interest and little more and Kebbell looked funny and very Charles Manson-esque in a long wig. I couldn’t take him seriously.

Destroyer is an interesting character study but it plays around with time in a way that left me scratching my head. The narrative has some issues but it’s worth a watch for Kidman’s transformative performance.

Seen as part of the 2018 BFI London Film Festival. Set for release on 25th January 2019.

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