I recently went away to Montreal before attending TIFF, and that caused me to take a break from my Movie A Day challenge (I will return once TIFF has ended), and during that I wrote about Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body. Yes, it’s mixed but along with The Invitation, she showed her precision as a filmmaker. The specifics of that story shined and was beautiful, so when she was coming back with a new film, I was all over it.
In Destroyer, Kusama brings an unrecognizable Nicole Kidman into an incredible role. Kidman plays Erin Bell, a detective who early in her career went undercover alongside with Chris (played by Sebastian Stan). Somebody from their time undercover has returned and is beginning to haunt Erin. Erin faces her demons in order to keep herself and her family.
The film is filled with twists and turns at most corners and is expertly directed. Even though some of the film that is shone through flashbacks, we are still tense at what may occur. In one sequence, we are told that Arturo is running around present day, but we see him being forced to play a solo game of Russian Roulette by the nefarious Silas (Toby Kebbell who is terrifying) and we are at the edge of the seat unsure if we’ll make it. That is pure solid film making. It is also unsurprising from the woman who brought pure tension in The Invitation.
Erin Bell plays a character who hasn’t moved on from that case, and it’s clear that these flashbacks that haunt her in the present have haunted her since the day after it occurred. The way Kidman stares away, or Erin hides from her job at bars and is constantly inebriated, it haunts her dreams and her days.
At one point Bradley Whitford’s character DiFranco tells Erin that successful people move on, and it’s clear that she can’t. She will hold onto these events until it’s too late, she doesn’t know how to move on. She goes all out on a revenge mission to make sure that her family is safe.
In the latest Mission Impossible film, Ethan Hunt is told that he is his worst enemy, but I feel that the line would be more apt for Destroyer. As the audience, you wish her to come clean and get help, but watching her dig deeper makes for an even more terrifying good time.
Karyn Kusama is an incredible director that plays with the tropes and typical things that surround a film. With horror, Jennifer’s Body was comedic but timely and an important statement about female friendship. With The Invitation, it was a mix of drama but thriller that left you on the edge of your seat and begging to see what else lies in their world. And once again, Kusama redefines the word “genre” in this poetic noir film as a badass woman leads the way, and is an unstoppable force.
And so is Karyn Kusama, so please come back soon, no more 8 year hiatuses. Genre films need you.