"The Killing of a Sacred Deer" (2017) is a distinctive and disquieting psychological thriller directed by Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos. Known for his idiosyncratic, bleakly humorous narratives and distinctive deadpan dialogue, Lanthimos delivers an unsettling film that shrouds viewers in an ethereal mist of dread.
The film presents the story of Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a successful heart surgeon who forms a strange bond with Martin (Barry Keoghan), a young man whose father died under Steven's care. As Martin insinuates himself more into Steven's life, it becomes clear that his intentions are far more ominous than they appear.
Lanthimos expertly weaves elements of classical Greek tragedy into the suburban American setting. The narrative of the film unfolds in a hushed, unnerving manner, echoing the stark and foreboding tone. In contrast to traditional thrillers, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" subverts the usual payoff of climactic tension, instead opting for a relentless build-up of unease that permeates the entire film.
The acting performances are uniformly strong. Farrell and Nicole Kidman, playing Steven's wife Anna, exude an austere magnetism that perfectly complements the film's mood. Keoghan delivers a standout performance, his eerie demeanor and delivery imbuing the film with a disconcerting sense of unease.
The cinematography of the film is captivating, characterized by meticulously composed shots and a cold, clinical aesthetic that mirrors the sterility of Steven's medical profession. The spare, haunting score further enhances the atmosphere, casting a chilling pall over the proceedings.
"The Killing of a Sacred Deer" left an indelible impression on me due to its unique exploration of guilt, responsibility, and the moral consequences of one's actions. Its brooding, slow-burn narrative and unnerving atmosphere create an immersive viewing experience that lingers long after the credits roll.
However, the film's distinctive style may not be to everyone's taste. Its deliberate pacing and lack of conventional narrative gratification can be polarizing, and its chilly, clinical aesthetic may alienate some viewers. But for those willing to engage with its narrative and thematic nuances, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" is a richly rewarding, albeit deeply unsettling, cinematic experience.