Today: July 14, 2024

Destroyer

Like Karyn Kusama’s last full feature The Invitation, Destroyer is an essay on trauma and how the decisions we make, the events we experience and the roads we take can ripple through the rest of our lives. Where The Invitation was a horror thriller Destroyer is a crime drama laced with intrigue that lures you in.

Set across two time periods the film follows Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman). In the past she is an undercover cop within a gang led by the psychotic Silas (Toby Kebbell). In the present Bell is convinced that Silas has resurfaced after years of hiding and looking to take his revenge on her for their shared past.

There is a visual metaphor at the beginning and end of Destroyer of a kid on a skateboard trying a trick over and over again while never quite sticking the landing. It is a metaphor that perfectly captures Destroyer. On the one hand there are times that it looks impressive, where it looks like it will pull of something spectacular, something that will have you slow-clapping with delight. But if it doesn’t stick that landing, it’s going to leave you feeling like it was all for nothing. Alas, like the kid on the skateboard, Destroyer is never quite able to pull off something special.

What frustrates is at times it looks so close to doing just that. The world Kusama creates is bleak, imposing and nihilistic. Kidman’s Bell is a shell of a person, an alcoholic drifting through a blindingly bright Los Angeles on a laser sighted mission to close a chapter of her life she knows she will never recover from.

Towards the end Kusma, who proved with The Invitation to have a brilliant ability to manipulate narratives in a truly original way, pulls the rug in such a way as to have you smiling with the slyness and deft touch she has sold you a fast one. And yet, it’s never quite enough. Because Destroyer, as the title implies, suggests something grand, something operatic and it never arrives. Even in moments it could be incredibly punchy, it errs on the side of the conservative. As such it leaves you feeling as empty as Bell’s outlook on life, downtrodden, broken and never fully connected to the world you’ve been immersed in.

In the lead role Kidman is mesmeric. As the older Bell she is a typical old soul, anxious for revenge and bitter to even look at. But it’s in the fleeting moments as her younger incarnation where Kidman really excels, a quiet force, steely-eyed, driven and dangerously conflicted. In many ways it’s a shame we get so little of her over the present, damaged and hollowed out version.

Breathtaking to look at and brimming with so much potential but ultimately lacks a killer punch, Destroyer doesn’t so much leave chaos in its wake as struggles to follow through on the crescendo it tries to build to.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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