The creative force behind ‘Widows’ is enough to set expectations very high indeed. With multi-award winning director Steve McQueen at the helm, and Gillian Flynn of ‘Gone Girl’ fame collaborating as screenwriter, this film already had a top team working on it before we even get to the list of stellar actors involved. It’s good to say, as a result, that it’s every bit as good as it should be, and another example of McQueen’s prowess behind the camera.
Based on a 1983 UK TV series of the same name, ‘Widows’ tells the story of three women whose husbands are killed in a botched robbery and who must deal with the fallout as well as the grief. Viola Davis plays Veronica, a woman in a loving relationship with her husband Harry, a renowned thief. Veronica stays out of what he does, and everything appears to be rosy, until a job gone wrong leaves her, and the other wives of members of Harry’s crew, widowed. Discovering that Harry owed money to a lot of the wrong people, Veronica resolves to do a heist of her own, enlisting the help of fellow widows Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) to pull it off.
It’s an incredibly taut thriller, tension straining every scene as the nuances of what each character wants from the heist becomes clear, and their complex relationships with each other develop and twist and turn throughout. It’s also a film that’s unafraid to dabble in politics and corruption, doing an excellent job of giving a fully rounded perspective of each of the players and never turning any character in to a caricature.
Davis is typically excellent as Veronica, while Elizabeth Debicki shines as Alice, a character who used to rely entirely on her abusive now deceased husband, but who starts to understand her own strengths and begins to revel in her resilience. The way the women, out of desperation rather greed, have to apply themselves to their roles is excellently portrayed, together with the different ways they go about doing so, from Veronica’s stern determination to Alice’s growing confidence and quiet assuredness, and the film, in amidst all the well written thriller elements and twists, makes sure that their arcs are well explored.
Excellent support performances come from Colin Farrell and Daniel Kaluuya in particular, the latter of whom is genuinely terrifying as Jatemme Manning, a brutal enforcer intent on collecting the money that the women owe who stops at nothing to help his cause and has a psychopathic look in his eye at all times. Kaluuya’s range and ability continues to be astounding and he is truly affecting in this role in a very powerful performance that shows just how good he is.
Overall though, this is a heist film of the intelligence and quality that you would expect from McQueen, and Flynn’s screenplay is both gripping and clever. For those who are tired of the heist formula, ‘Widows’ definitely shows there is life in the genre yet, and a way to both have your cake and eat it in terms of having a mix of both substance and style.
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