That critical moment we both knew would come someday . . . here it is.
In The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Colin Farrell plays a successful surgeon who has taken a young boy who wants to become a surgeon, played by Barry Keoghan, under his wing, at least partly out of guilt over the death of the boy’s father while he was on the operating table. From there, things go off the rails in some very unsettling ways. If you know Lanthimos, that’s all I need to say; and that’s a good thing because that is all I’m going to say. Go into this movie knowing as little as you possibly can; one of the wonderful things about the worlds Lanthimos conjures is the way that something weird and unsettling seems to lurk around every corner and you’re never sure which of the disturbing elements is going to actually pay off and which are just there for atmosphere. His cast is top-notch here. Farrell understands Lanthimos’ deadpan right down to his bones, as we saw in The Lobster, and he’s strange and affected here in a very different way. Keoghan, who you might remember from this year’s Dunkirk, is a really off-putting, in the best way, presence in the film; he’s always had a very strange, off-kilter kind of look to me and he’s better here than I’ve ever seen him before. His performance is the kind that, quite seriously, typecasts an actor for the rest of his career; if I were him, I’d try to get some sort of a romantic comedy lined up immediately, unless he wants to get stuck playing the weird, frightening misfit for the next thirty years. Nicole Kidman, as Farrell’s wife, is very good. A young actor named Sunny Suljic gives a really impressive performance; he’s only eleven, I think, but he slips into Lanthimos’ deadpan tone astonishingly well. He gets a couple of really fine scenes where he’s quite preternatural. Likewise, Alicia Silverstone really nails her brief appearance; she’s in the movie for about ten minutes, or maybe less, but she’s fantastic. Those, it should be said, going to this film hoping for a kind of repeat of The Lobster will be disappointed. The Lobster was a real masterwork of tone shifting; it would go from really disturbing or violent to hilariously funny in a matter of moments and then suddenly end up being genuinely romantic and touching just as quickly. The juggling act required to keep The Lobster going was really masterful. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, in contrast, picks one tone and just goes with it. The film is oppressively grim, soaked in dread and it doesn’t really have any interest in being anything else, though there are a handful of darkly comic moments (the scene with Silverstone is probably the funniest in the movie). It’s actually a pretty hard watch, unburdened, as it is, with the need for anything like redemption or heroism or good will. For some, the film will undoubtedly be too mean spirited or grim; for me, it’s another masterpiece from Lanthimos, a filmmaker that remains among the most iconoclastic and striking cinematic artists working today. 4 stars.
tl;dr – oppressively grim drama from Lanthimos unsettles, disturbs and haunts; a great cast, a brilliant screenplay and typically strong visuals work together to create a dark, troubling masterpiece. 4 stars.