Driven by Kidman's forceful, demolishing performance and a deliriously complex, snaky screenplay, this mature, intricately designed crime drama is more memorable and more haunting than most. Directed by Karyn Kusama and co-written by her husband, Phil Hay, and his writing partner, Matt Manfredi (they all made the excellent thriller The Invitation), Destroyer is an awards-season showcase for Kidman's talents. She ages from the glow of youth to a shambling wreck, her face hardened, her narrow eyes reflecting agony and suspicion. It's an astonishing piece of work -- and, refreshingly, it's not all the film has to offer. Kidman is supported by, and part of, an equally impressive movie.
Destroyer has plenty of secrets, and it'd be a shame to give any of them away, but it's safe to expect many moments of gnashing suspense and gripping bittersweet. The movie's use of light and shadow turns Los Angeles into a modern world of film noir, from desolate, graffiti-tagged slabs of buildings to a slash of diagonal shadow under the bridge where Erin first appears. The intense sound design grabs everyday noises and twists them into a cacophony. And when it's not moving the plot forward and/or generating suspense and mystery, the movie zeroes in on Erin's character, her painful attempts to connect with her daughter, and the heartbreaking story of how she simply lost everything. Destroyer is a dark film, and it's not for casual viewing, but it is unforgettable.