One positive that can be said about Destroyer, is that it takes the typically male-driven crime thriller genre, and demonstrates it through the female lens. Typically, women in this genre are portrayed as victims, damsels, or even wives stuck at home. But here, we have a female protagonist who gets to be a complex and complicated anti-hero, in the same manner that men in this genre are able to be.
Even if the end result isn’t perfect, it is still proof that Karyn Kusama is a director who is always willing to put her own spin on various genres. It also shows that its star Nicole Kidman is a true risk taker.
While much fuzz has been made about Nicole Kidman’s immense deglamming, what’s more impressive is how she digs deep into the troubled psyche of our main heroine, Erin Bell. Even though she’s continuously reeling from the trauma of an undercover mission gone wrong, it feels like the script goes out of its initial way to make Erin as unlikeable as possible.
However, Kidman never fails to demonstrate Erin’s vulnerability and does so through the use of her somber eyes. Behind the gruff, beat-up exterior of Erin lies a woman wanting to be understood and hoping to let go of the guilt she’s bared for so long.
Kidman is a quiet force of nature in this film, and gives one of her most brazen portrayals to date. That being said, one actor who deserves proper kudos is Sebastian Stan as Erin’s former partner/lover Chris. While Stan plays his role in a rather low key manner, he still emulates such warmth and charm which makes the chemistry between him and Kidman believable.
Some other standouts include Toby Kebbell, who has a few scenes as Silas, a sinister leader of a cult that Erin and Chris once infiltrated. Also, Tatiana Maslany provides gullible menace as Petra, a loyal member of Silas’ cult who becomes instrumental to Erin’s attempts to eventually take him down. Much like Kebbell, Maslany only has a sparse amount of screen time, but she makes the most of it.
Truthfully, it’s mainly a showcase for Nicole Kidman who is the one person that holds the film together. Although the script doesn’t entirely do her character any favors, and the editing makes watching the storyline very disorienting, Kidman still carries the picture with ease.
If there’s one other positive besides Kidman’s performance, it has to be the cinematography by Julie Kirkwood. Because the film is told through a nonlinear structure, when the film cuts to the present day, she brilliantly captures the film in light to contrast with the visual instances of Erin’s dark past resurfacing.
As it turns out, Destroyer doesn’t entirely come together due to script and editing troubles. However, it is still worth watching mainly for Nicole Kidman’s immensely committed leading performance, along with its deceptively luminous cinematography. Despite its unevenness, it still has its positives.