I can guarantee that you’ve never seen Nicole Kidman quite like this.
Synopsis: In Karyn Kusama’s riveting new crime thriller Destroyer, the receipt of an ink-marked bill in the office mail propels veteran LAPD detective Erin Bell on a perilous journey to find the murderer and gang leader, Silas, and perhaps to finally make peace with her tortured past. (Elevation Pictures)
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, and Toby Kebbell
Writers: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Director: Karyn Kusama
Rating: R (United States)
Running Time: 123mins
Yes, that was Nicole Kidman under all that makeup. That was only the first step in the unbelievable transformation she undergoes over the course of the film. Most people will have surely seen the one released still of the film of her and her weather-beaten, worn down look. Along with this look, she becomes a completely different character from what she has played in the past, playing detective Erin Bell who was forced to face her troubled past and the consequences of her actions, stemming from an undercover assignment gone bad, working with another FBI agent named Chris (Stan).
Over the course of the film, the story flashes back to the past and the present and it was during these flashbacks that we can see what time has done to the characters. It wasn’t just Bell who developed a weather-beaten look as all the other characters had similar gritty looks. Everything about the film was gritty, including the darker underside of Los Angeles, brought to life by beautiful cinematography, camerawork, and a thrilling score. Bell was willing to get down and dirty to get the truth, not giving any F’s about herself or others while on a path of destruction to find a dark figure of her past who she believed had resurfaced, a man named Silas (Kebbell). While coming to terms with her past, she also had to make amends with her troubled daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn).
Bell and her path of destruction were both thrilling and incredibly satisfying to watch and her literal transformation over the course of the film was also very compelling to watch. All of this was a personal mission for her and she simply didn’t care what happened to her as a result. However, it was easy to empathize with her reasons for doing what she did despite her unconventional approach. It was all she knew. Her ultimate path may be similar to that of other main characters of other gritty cop films but what sets her apart is the fact that very few films have told this story from a female perspective. If there was one slight negative about this, it would be the slower pace of both timelines though the end helped to rectify this by wrapping everything back together in a satisfying way.
Easily, the best part of the film was Kidman’s performance as Bell. As mentioned, her role here was unlike anything she had ever done to this point in her career. With the help of some great makeup, she loses herself in the role, eventually transforming into a gritty, hard-nosed detective with a drinking problem. She simply commanded the screen and was compelling to watch throughout. The role was also more physical than we are accustomed to seeing from her where she took quite a beating. Besides Kidman, there wasn’t much else here in terms of other characters as the only ones we would see were the past and present incarnations of people from Bell’s past on her way to Silas. They were mostly plot devices but for that, they succeeded. They did great with what they had for the most part, including Stan and Kebbell but also Tatiana Maslany as a woman named Petra (also a role unlike any Maslany has ever done).
Overall, Destroyer was a great, gritty crime thriller thanks to some beautiful cinematography and camera work, a thrilling score, and some incredible makeup work. The story may be a little slow for some but Nicole Kidman simply commands the screen in a powerful performance that you will have to see to believe. There aren’t nearly enough of these types of films told from a female perspective. Hopefully it doesn’t get completely lost in the shuffle come awards season.