It’s a bit like the heyday of the drive-in.  Moonlight Cinemas gives you the freedom to eat and drink and relax in a seat of your choice or the comfy bean bag sofas you can hire.  But the biggest advantage is being able to check in with your companion about the plot details.

Very useful for a film such as DESTROYER which has a time structure that requires constant attention from the audience to site the narrative as the threads weave together toward the slow burn climax.

The narrative eddies around the plodding, broken character of Erin Bell who staggers into frame with hangover and rumple, having slept in her car.  A banger is dead and Erin knows how and why … and who killed him.  A past is catching up with her as she hangs on by a liquid filament to her job as an LA Detective with a violent backstory, including an undercover operation that brings her to standing over a dead and dumped body.

Nicole Kidman has a Chandleresque transformation here and the flawless makeup does take some getting used to.  But after the first few scenes during which the prosthetics do all the heavy lifting, one is immersed in the hot, seedy, twilight of Erin’s current circumstances.  When the story flashes back to the Erin of 17 years ago and Kidman’s blue eyes peer out from under a younger auburn fringe, her stellar performance has one engaged, curious and craving resolution.

Director Karyn Kusama then takes the audience on a twisting journey of past meets present where checking with friends about who that guy is becomes part of the enjoyment of the film.  And while you never really find out who the guy is, Husama’s direction avoids neat packaging of the mystery, the interactions and characters drive the narrative.  The editing and shot selection propel the thriller aspect with tracking and chase while the occasional use of slow motion and the very effective use of closeup gives breathing time for the interspersing timelines to cohere in Erin’s story.

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of this intriguing woman begins with the shambling gait, which is later explained, and the gravelled voice of barely swallowed despair.  Never sliding into any hard-boiled trope, she does come alive when she gets ballsy in a take no shit response to criminal scum and softens to relatable around her daughter. The complexity of her performance is gripping in Erin’s physicality but also in the many alone moments of silence where the interior struggle is just as riveting.

Crimson fire atop a tree and rainbow heat glare compel in the thoroughly absorbing cinematography of the unrelentingly grim settings.  LA is big and the shots of driving and Erin half asleep, on remote behind the wheel bring the gritty realities to the screen.  And people get hurt here.  Punches and hits land and hurt … and have consequences.

DESTROYER is a film to see more than once.   Even with the luxury of being able to talk with companions and top up your wine glass during the film, it leaves questions about time and damage and redemption.

See what other Advance Screenings or new releases or family movies or dog friendly showings are available at the Moonlight Cinemas website.