A man who plays God for a living meets a boy who chooses to play Devil in Yorgos Lanthimos’ chilling and breathtaking The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), Opens November 10th
Once again, as he did with The Lobster, Lanthimos is working in a deeply metaphorical register, using an impossible situation to illuminate relatable human fears. The result is a mesmerizing thriller, a movie that asks questions with no good answers and traps us within its terrifying and bizarre situation with little hope for a happy ending. With uniformly great performances throughout the cast and Lanthimos’ stunning eye for detail and composition, this is one of the most unforgettable films of the year.
Colin Farrell, reuniting with Lanthimos and a bit bushier and grayer than before, plays Dr. Steven Murphy, a noted and respected surgeon. Externally, he would seem to have it all. He’s powerful and successful with a gorgeous wife named Anna (Nicole Kidman), who happens to be an ophthalmologist. They have two children—15-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and younger Bob (Sunny Suljic). Steven has befriended a 16-year-old named Martin (Barry Keoghan of “Dunkirk”), the son of a man who died on his operating table a few years ago. Exactly what happened in that room, and how and why Steven has tried to stay close with Martin is unclear at the beginning of the film. Lanthimos often keeps histories and motivations vague, allowing us to fill in the blanks as the film progresses.
Colin Ferrell is phenomenal here, finding the shades of a man whose greatest sin may be his refusal to admit he’s only human. In the end, that may be the message of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, when you play God, you must deal with the consequences. The Lanthimos-Farrell dynamic is one of those relationships in which the creator and actor are so clearly on the same page that it’s invigorating.
That’s a good word for The Killing of a Sacred Deer. It’s a film that challenges viewers in such fascinating ways and feels so refined in its filmmaking that it’s invigorating to watch. It’s a rare movie indeed that can be this alternately terrifying, hysterical, strange, and heartbreaking, often in the same scene. Like the Greek myth that inspired the film, it feels powerful enough to be timeless.
~~ Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com