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TIFF 2018 Review: “Destroyer” (2018) ★★★★★


© 2018 – Annapurna Pictures

Whenever there’s a Nicole Kidman movie coming out, it is safe to assume that there would be at least one close up scene. If you remember “Dogville”, “Lion”, “To Die For”, “Birth”, “The Human Stain”, “The Hours” or HBO’s “Big Little Lies”, then you know how many of such scenes we had the chance to admire. But with Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer”, there’s more than that. The camera was like an effective tail who would follow, not her back, but her face instead from the first given opportunity. Her facial expressions, mad if not super mad eyes, or the life story the same face tells us is enough to pause any of those scenes and admire them in silence.

“Destroyer” follows Erin Bell, a woman whose past had its own game to play. The way she looks is almost as if she’s returned from the set of “Walking Dead” as the way she looks, she seems likely to drop dead any time. Her teeth seem to have not been brushed in ages, her face requires a severe touch-up, her eyes are so tired it’s almost as if she has not slept at all. It’s easy to predict how badly she smells just seeing her outfit that she has not changed for a very long time. And the body found lying on the street does not help her much, as the mark on the neck of the victim brings painful memories back. Erin Bell now knows it’s her only chance to settle the painful memories and let them rest in peace.

It’s memories from the past that re-emerges before Erin’s eyes in which we find her and soon-to-return the love of her life, Sebastian Stan’s Chris, with whom she infiltrated the gang of Silas as undercover agents. We can realize that the assignment did not end well, as it continues haunting her present. Her broken relationship with her teenage daughter, Shelby, does not help ease her pain when she learns that Shelby is dating a man much older than her. Using force or coarse language does not assist her when it comes to discussing Erin’s intentions, after all, she is as stubborn as her mother. But the scene when they finally sit together is must-see.

But that’s not the only scene every viewer must look forward to – the interrogation scene with the witness is probably one of those that will be discussed the entire year. Without spoiling it much, one thing you can be assured of is that there’s only a few actresses who would be able to pull of what Nicole Kidman has, but no one would have done it in a way Nicole Kidman has. But that does not make Kidman’s Erin bad cop dirty or if you wish to call her any other way, which I am sure, may apply to her, but corrupt? Yes, that’s for certain. That scene alone is a pure masterpiece, outside the box, only a female director could have done in the most provocative way.

Nicole Kidman has always been known as a chameleon. Her ability to change skin, look and transform herself into anyone she wants is old news. But Kusama makes Kidman’s previous achievements nothing in comparison with the performance she delivers here. Yes, there’s a similarity to Charlize Theron’s “Monster” in terms of Erin being as ugly as she could get, disgusting and absolutely unlikable person. Indeed, Erin had her reasons unlike Aileen’s intentions in “Monster”. But both women had to go through deep trauma, the past that left a stamp on their faces, but for two absolutely different reasons.

In conclusion, “Destroyer” is an excellent crime thriller filled with a mind-blowing performance. Screenplay written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi leaves so much room for improvisation, but never forget to leave the slightest mark of a human touch in Erin Bell. The characters written are rich and deserve their own movies. Tatiana Maslany as Petra was quite impressive as well. Sebastian Stan’s contribution is notable, and sometimes too emotional to handle. In the end, it’s about a woman who grew mad, angry and vengeful. “If you come back, I’ll kill you. And that’s easy. Because I have nothing to lose.” Erin says to Shelby’s boyfriend, to protect her daughter from future mistakes. And that’s the least what this wonderfully directed film has to offer.

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