Destroyer Review

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany

Director: Karyn Kusama


I have no idea how Nicole Kidman ended up in the lead role of this movie, but I have to say, I’m really glad that she was in it.  Actors and actresses go through phases, and for the last few years, Kidman has played a handful of motherly roles in Aquaman, Boy Erased, and Lion.  In Destroyer, Kidman is once again a mother, but this is nowhere close to what she’s played in those other movies.  A gritty, dark, and compelling role that is intertwined with a story that is as twisted and anxious as the lead character, Destroyer will go down as a another solid addition to Kidman’s storied career.

The film follows Erin Bell (Kidman), a detective for the LAPD who at one point in time went undercover in a gang that plotted bank robberies.  When Silas (Kebbell) the gang’s leader resurfaces in the present day, Erin makes it her mission to finish her operation and make sure Silas pays for his crimes.  This is the type of movie that lives and dies from the performances, and fortunately casting Kidman in anything guarantees that you’ll get a solid performance at the bare minimum.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Kidman in a role this physically and emotionally demanding, but she pulls it off in true Kidman fashion and gives us a performance that makes you believe that she’s an active LAPD detective who places herself in dangerous situations but who is also empathetic enough to relate to her story.  Outside of Kidman, if you like dark, intense stories that don’t have a clear path and that keep you guessing for most of the movie, then Destroyer is probably a movie that you would enjoy.  The film is structured where the audience is given parts of the whole story through flashbacks placed sporadically throughout the film.  This means that the viewer has to pay attention to everything that’s happening as it appears so that when details come out later in the movie, you know what the scene is referencing.  The main issue with this is that not everything adds up and it makes the ending feel rushed and confusing.  The climax of this movie happens with about 10 minutes left in the 123 minute runtime, so while everything leading up to this is a relatively slow burn, the essential details just get thrown to us at the end to piece together a sensible story.  It’s unfortunate that the film derails a bit during the climax and conclusion, because the build up in the rising action make the scenes leading up to the end incredibly tense, it’s just that the payoff is never there.  Without the performances of Kidman and to a lesser extent Stan, I have a hard time believing that this movie would have been as exciting as I thought it was.  With a story and cast like the one in Destroyer, I think deep down there’s a really good movie buried somewhere deep in the concept of it, but it just can’t come together as a clean, finished product.

Overall, Annapurna made a wise choice by pushing Vice and If Beale Street Could Talk as their awards contenders instead of Destroyer, but that shouldn’t discredit the work that was done on this movie.  With another set of captivating performances and a story that while unbalanced has a foundation to be something special, at the bare minimum Destroyer can provide a couple of hours of thought-provoking story and another interesting career choice for Kidman.  Maybe if I were to watch this movie again I would appreciate some of the subtle details that I may have missed, but in a first time view, Destroyer rides the line as a good but not great movie.

Overall Score: 6.5/10

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