REVIEW — “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Yorgos Lanthimos is one of my favorite directors today, and with each new project that I see from him, I find that his eye for aesthetic and symbolism is as prominent and impressive as ever. The way he uses space and locations in each of his films to add to the claustrophobia and create his own distinct sense of atmospheric horror and nail-biting tension is damn’ near perfection and almost Kubrick-esque in his signature craft. Lanthimos is an auteur in every sense of the word, which is why I was so incredibly excited to see The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Luckily enough, this is not only an extremely effective film and wildly inventive in its craft – but it is possibly Lanthimos’s most distinct and masterfully directed films to date and one of the very best directed films of the year.
The film follows Steven Murphy (Collin Farrell) who is an arrogant but brilliant and constantly busy surgeon. He shares a gorgeous and somewhat quiet life with his wife (Nicole Kidman) and his two children. All of this is shaken up when Martin (Barry Keoghan), a troubled and fatherless teenager, throws himself into Steven and his family’s lives and puts a large dent into their tranquil existences. This adds for an intense and endlessly creepy tale of revenge, paranoia, and fear; perfectly opening up the gateway for Lanthimos to take advantage of his knowledge of Greek mythology from his last film, The Lobster, and creates a modern-day cautionary tale of sorts. For anyone who complains about there being a lack of original films being released right now – A24 has you covered yet again with this film.
The performances here are all around fantastic. Collin Farrell gives one of the best performances of his career here, as he commands each and every sequence with a soft-spoken energy that somehow also has a true true force of nature behind it. Barry Keoghan is somehow just as equal to him, turning in one of the best performances of the year and delivering one of the most unsettling characters I’ve seen onscreen in quite some time. Keoghan and Farrell’s chemistry with one another is nothing short of creepy and mesmerizing. The way the two of them play off one another is completely engaging and is what carries the film, aside from Lanthimos’ direction. Kidman isn’t quite in the spotlight as much as these two are, but she gives a solid performance nonetheless and fits perfectly into the mold of the film.
While I highly enjoyed the film and found its clever symbolism for Greek mythology to be original, I do believe it gets a bit repetitive by the end and felt more drawn out than it had to be. I overall appreciated what Lanthimos was trying to convey within the events that occur in the third act and was undeniably affected by the film in the way that he intended for me to be, but I feel like the third act feeling looser than the rest of the film led to the tension dying out and it got progressively less eery and urgent as it went along. It doesn’t completely fall apart by the time it’s over, but it does lose a sense of what made me love the first half so much and lost its potential to be as good or even better than his past work. Issues in the third act aside, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is still an undeniably effective and legitimately frightening piece of work that’s well worth seeing if you believe you can stomach it. 3.5/5.