The Killing of a Sacred Deer Screen 54 of 23 reviews

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer Poster
  • The truth is that it’s rarely daddy-men with god complexes that are punished, but their charges and subordinates... The film’s portrayal of the self-interested surgeon should ring bells for anyone who’s read the news this last year. The Killing of a Sacred Deer begins, like Funny Games, with a blast of opera: unlike Funny Games, it also opens on a close-up of a chest cavity mid-surgery, a naked heart. There is a human – if not humane – truth about the malice of inaction beating at its core.

  • “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is Lanthimos with the gloves off, and it makes the absurd, amazing “The Lobster” seem like a warm and cuddly experience by comparison. A film of clean hands, cold heart, and near-Satanic horror, it was garlanded with boos at its Cannes press screening and it is absolutely fucking brilliant.

  • It’s arguable that the film’s rigorously controlled suspense means that the drama stays too much within a narrow dynamic range, with too few high points of intensity to give the film all the dramatic modulation it needs. But it’s a powerful and unsettling film that significantly broadens the repertoire of one of Europe’s most singular and wayward auteurs.

  • The movie is at its most boring when Lanthimos goes for an operatic gothicism that overwhelms the proceedings but doesn’t inform them. He’s at his best reckoning with the nit and grit of the stakes of this world as he’s imagined it. How is it possible that a wife playing dead to try and fail to seduce her husband can feel so weirdly, strenuously tragic? That’s the enduring curiosity, even value, of Lanthimos’s world, even if his movies don’t always properly exploit it.

  • It was one of the most divisive titles at this year’s Cannes festival, thanks to its delirious story and aggressively arty stylization — and it’s sure to continue to divide audiences now that it’s finally coming out. It’s the kind of picture where emotions are almost (almost) always played in cool, deadpan fashion — even as characters’ lives collapse around them — and narrative logic is strained until it goes fully absurd. But I was mostly charmed (is that the word?) by this poisoned curio.

  • This movie pissed a lot of people off when it played, likely because its sadistic scenario never amounts to more than sadism for its own sake; to counter a choice line from late in the film — “It’s a metaphor, it’s symbolic” — there is nothing metaphorical or symbolic here. It is what it is, present while it’s there, gone when it’s not, and you either laugh along or curse its existence.

  • A blackly comic performance by Colin Farrell provides the emotional anchor for The Killing of a Sacred Deer. As clinically detached surgeon Steven Murphy, Farrell effortlessly switches from arch, quasi-robotic line readings to frantic, plate-smashing furor. His skillful transition from deep-in-denial emotional repression to manic rage is crucial to the film's success, as Lanthimos and co-screenwriter Efthymis Filippou's characters don't talk like anyone you've ever met in real life.

  • The supernatural element short-circuits Lanthimos’s pretensions of tragedy, and after its electrifying first hour, Killing loses it spark and narrows to a series of gruesome scenes. It’s less a film about crime and punishment than an occasion for Lanthimos to cycle through the idiosyncratic set of perversities that first grabbed our attention but has been growing staler with each picture.

  • Whether puckish, wry, dry, coy, or cold, these images offer, above all, the conspicuous restraint of aesthetic nonintervention, of falsely bland repudiation of visual expression, as if to let the facts onscreen speak for themselves. But the actual artistic point of these satires on bourgeois comfort and sophistication is a visual simplicity that matches the dramas’ repudiations of technological, intellectual, and bureaucratic modernity.

  • With The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lanthimos edges into Hitchcock-Polanski territory. It has the makings of a psychological thriller except, of course, for genuine psychology and thrills... Lanthimos repeats and/or exaggerates flimsy, sometimes outré behavior in an attempt to fashion some intricate audiovisual architecture. But this movie is built on landfill and sand. When The Killing of a Sacred Deer descends to scenes of torture, the movie (and most audiences) can’t survive the shock.

  • In committing to his own established aesthetic and thematic tendencies rather than exploring their limitations, Lanthimos's filmmaking regresses into something that resembles an homage to itself, an exquisitely crafted dead end. This proficiency is alluring, emitting a defiant confidence for a while—a stubbornness that has a certain ballsiness to it—until its hollowness becomes obvious.

  • It's distractingly obsessed with Kubrick. Dogtooth and Alps used largely static framing, disrupted by characters and objects coming into the frame from the sides or, at especially disconcerting moments, from above and below. The Lobsteradded some slow zooms to the equation, but Killing goes full Shining: seemingly a third of the shots are either Steadicam walk-and-talks down hospital corridors doubling for Danny’s bike rides and performed at the same speed.

  • The reward-to-punishment ratio is lower here than The Lobster, which was grim and pessimistic but also consistently witty and funny. The follow-up has more dead air in between the jokes (which admittedly makes the few one-liners land like haymakers) and doesn’t fully achieve the creepy, severe surrealism it’s going for. It does come close on occasion, though, and when that happens, it’s a reminder that this director has a unique talent for deadpan nastiness.

  • For those who’ve grown weary––or perhaps suspicious––of the seemingly obligatory conceptual gambits that have thus far characterized the films of Yorgos Lanthimos, then the Greek provocateur’s latest should come as welcome reprieve; for everyone else, it’s likely to appear as something a little more ordinary, a little less daring.

  • It's sensationally well made, close to Kubrickian in its visual and sonic precision. It is also, to these eyes, an increasingly and dispiritingly empty provocation as it goes on. By the end of a tediously protracted second act that might as well be called “Slogtooth,” all suspense, hilarity and genuine horror have long since been drained away... The result is pretty much pure, unfiltered Lanthimos — and in the future I think I’ll take him impure and filtered, thank you very much.

  • Lanthimos’ brilliant 2009 film, Dogtooth, introduced audiences to his signature style of directing actors to perform robotically. The film worked because he allowed drama to seep in, characters to develop. The ending had meaning. None of this is true of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, in which the drained personalities of the characters serve to relieve the film of all dramatic tension.

  • What The Killing of a Sacred Deer does lack is a sense of the real, a resonance beyond the artificial world Lanthimos' has created. (“Do you understand? It’s metaphorical… It’s symbolic,” says Martin after an especially grotesque act of self-cannibalism.) And that, really, is what keeps this from reaching the visceral power of something like Funny Games.

  • As gorgeously shot and semi-mechanically acted as The Lobster – with Kidman particularly fine – the film is otherwise, sadly, a tedious exercise in morbidity chic.

  • The rest of the film is largely bereft of the quizzical touches that served to leaven the mordancy in his earlier films. Indeed, it is almost as if Lanthimos has deliberately made The Killing of a Sacred Deer as painful to watch as possible: the jarring, atonal compositions on the soundtrack greatly exacerbate the spectatorial unease spawned by the on-screen events.

  • If the competition was especially fatiguing this year, it may have been for the prevalence of a particular kind of feel-bad film that conjoins formal stylization with casual sadism, whether in the service of a would-be moral tale like Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer or a one-note genre exercise like Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

  • A few other filmmakers appear to be trying to make their own Haneke movie, including Ruben Ostlund (“The Square”) and Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”)... Mr. Ostlund takes too long to get to his point, but there’s genuine playfulness amid his finger-wagging that makes the lessons more bearable than they are in “Sacred Deer,” which stars Colin Farrell as the surgeon and Nicole Kidman as his wife.

  • If Kubrick was the primary influence in the film’s first half, the second one owes an even bigger debt to Haneke – Funny Games is practically a template. Martin’s torture of Steven’s family and its consequences are so contrived and inordinately vicious, one can’t help but be disgusted by whoever took the time to think up atrocities this elaborate, never mind realizing them with such evident glee.

  • A weird, psychic tragedy strikes. Suddenly, these previously robotic people begin responding to each other, and caring about things, like actual humans, but still in that blank, nobody-home mode. It would be more Lanthimosian if even tragedy failed to move them. As it is, I was left wondering what this elaborate, arch art-house special-ops mission, heavy with elements of Biblical lore and Greek tragedy, was trying to say. Oh, but the filmmaking! Yeah, I guess.

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