This is a capsule review. A full one will be published closer to release.
If The Lobster didn’t mark the arrival of Yorgos Lanthimos as one of the unique masters of surrealist moviemaking, The Killing of a Sacred Deer surely confirms it. Here we have yet another film from the Greek director that takes an absurd premise, carries it to a certain kind of logical conclusion, and leaves his audience members’ faces sore from wincing at all the strangeness and anxiety they have experienced over the course of its 109 minutes.
Colin Farrell re-teams with his Lobster collaborator, picking up right where he left off in terms of the type of mannered performance this material calls for. It’s clear he’s bought into the tone of these movies, and it’s come to suit him perfectly. As the cardiac surgeon Steven, he possesses the perfect level of self awareness – that is to say, none whatsoever – both for playing a surgeon and for nailing down the exact surreal vibe of the movie.
“A surgeon never kills a patient,” he says, matter-of-factly. “An anesthesiologist can kill a patient, but a surgeon never can.” From what I understand, many surgeons would agree with this statement. I like to assume that this attitude, maybe even this phrase, was witnessed by this movie’s screenwriters (Lanthimos and his frequent co-writer, Efthymis Filippou), and that’s what inspired the entire story.
In regards to the plot, it would be very easy to give away more than would be ideal. And so, it’s best to leave it at this: Steven begins to have many encounters with a teenager named Martin, played by Barry Keoghan. There’s an absolutely terrific moment where Martin spells out exactly why he keeps meeting Steven, and it has something to do with both their families and the chaos that’s to come in the movie’s later stages. Frankly, there are plenty of more detailed descriptions to be found elsewhere, but I would recommend going into this one knowing as little as possible.
Keoghan is such a bright young star, and in an industry that likes its young male actors to be cut from the same mold, his peculiar physicality makes him really stand out, and makes this performance incredibly unsettling. He’s bound for great things.
Then there’s Nicole Kidman, who’s really having quite the year, isn’t she? Others have noted that her role here feels like a kind of callback to Eyes Wide Shut, which is but one of the Kubrickian touches employed in The Killing of a Scared Deer. There are times where the camera holds tight on her face in extreme close-up and there is so much subtle activity happening in front of our eyes that it would be just fine if the camera would never cut away.
I won’t say much more than that, but if you decide to check this one out (which I suggest you do), be prepared to be enveloped in a strange, disturbing world thanks to the manipulative skill of a true surrealist master.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer envelops you in its strange, disturbing world with the manipulative skill of a true surrealist master.