Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest uncomfortable puzzler is his most thought-provoking and entertaining film yet. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a cardiologist, undergoes a series of painful and daunting experiences after Martin, the son of one of his former patients, threatens his entire family. Martin, played by Barry Keoghan, gives Steven an ultimatum and tells him that he must choose one of his family members to die; his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), his daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy), or his son Bob (Sunny Suljic).
First, we need to address the fact that this is a Yorgos Lanthimos film, meaning that the pit of your stomach or that little voice in your head that needs answers, will both be a bit upset by the end. For those who are not familiar with his work, his films are mostly social commentaries that reflect on the real world by using unnerving dialogue and intentionally detached performances. Needless to say, Lanthimos does not have an optimistic outlook on society. However, what is nice and refreshing about his fourth and newest feature is the fact that it does not serve as a commentary and doesn’t necessarily have a message. It is first and foremost, a nail-biting, suspenseful work of art. Like his previous works, it is uncomfortable and disturbing, but it is also evident that this can be enjoyed more than once, unlike his previous projects.
The film is riddled with outstanding performances on all ends. The one who truly stands out however, is Colin Farrell. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” proves to us that Farrell is right on point when working with the right director. In films such as Total Recall, his performances are nothing notable but when he works with directors such as Martin McDonagh in In Bruges or with Lanthimos in The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he shines bright.
Newcomer Barry Keoghan is having the breakout moment of his blooming career. Just a few months prior, he gave a chilling performance in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk as a high-spirited young man who hopes to aid in the rescuing of the trapped soldiers. Now, with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he gets an even more versatile performance and he becomes one of the most astounding parts of the film. As the lead antagonist, he is chilling, disturbing, and downright despicable.
Lanthimos’s film is artistic in every sense of the word, while still functioning as an intense and enjoyable flick. The long and one-point perspective shots give us a sense of dread and uneasiness that stays with us from start to finish. Visually influenced by the work of the late filmmaking genius Stanley Kubrick, the shots and imagery are harrowing and immensely artistic, but give us the sense of dread we anticipate from Lanthimos’s sense of direction. This goes along with the harrowing music and creepy sounds playing that let us know that things are not alright. Lanthimos’s direction here is insightful and passionate, giving us the perfect artistic suspense film since Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
It is not easy to recommend this film, frankly because of its disturbing and distressing nature, but for film aficionados, this is one not to miss.
Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, some graphic nudity and language