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Review: ‘Destroyer’ is a game changer for Nicole Kidman Special

Posted Jan 11, 2019 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Destroyer’ wouldn’t be a great film without Nicole Kidman’s exceptional performance as she masterfully takes command of this unconventional role.
Nicole Kidman stars in  Destroyer
Nicole Kidman stars in 'Destroyer'
Elevation Pictures
There’s nothing like a good mystery that keeps diving deeper into the narrative before finally revealing the truth. This is often the trademark of a good, gritty, detective-driven crime drama in which you have to understand the past in order to understand the present. Everyone has secrets if you look hard enough and some of them may be worth killing over — the key is recognizing the difference. Destroyer is a complex story that blends the then and now to find an elusive bank robber and murderer.
Erin Bell’s (Nicole Kidman) arrival at a crime scene elicits groans from her colleagues. She’s a good detective — however, she can be difficult to work with and she doesn’t always go by the book. But this murder by the river drudges up old memories of a case she worked at the start of her career. She was undercover with another cop (Sebastian Stan) and together they infiltrated a gang of violent bank robbers. Months of intelligence gathering and bearing witness to the leader’s (Toby Kebbell) cruelty left its mark on her. Now, something about this crime is linked to that old investigation. Turning over rocks to find her former associates only leads to more trouble, but she won’t stop until she confronts her guilt and gets what she needs.
This isn’t a unique storyline, though it is exceptionally well-told by director Karyn Kusama. However, what is distinctive is it features a female protagonist in a typically male narrative. It’s not a touching tale of redemption and Erin’s maternal instincts are anything but traditional. Balancing her personal life and work is not really a priority, and she’s not concerned about what anyone might think of her. Erin does what needs to be done and isn’t afraid of a physical confrontation, though she isn’t always up to snuff. Whether watching a flashback or her current search, she’s unquestionably tough in a way that fits her character’s bold personality and rugged exterior.
Outstanding doesn’t begin to describe Kidman’s performance. It’s hard to believe she had it in her, but her portrayal of Erin is unflinching and a career best. Her transformation alone is remarkable and recalls Charlize Theron’s grit in Monster. Kidman wears Erin ’s darkness all over her face, while letting the sparkle into young Erin’s eyes when she talks about the future. She plays the rough anti-heroine with such authenticity, it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen. Each of the supporting characters she encounters is dwarfed by her talent, in spite of their own deft portrayals – except for Jade Pettyjohn who plays her rebellious teenage daughter with absolutely sincere wrath and bewilderment.
The script creates a blend of timelines that engages viewers with equal fervour and challenges them to be evenly present in both stories. The editing makes this nearly effortless as past and present are expertly interwoven to produce a gripping and unapologetic noir thriller.
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell and Tatiana Maslany