Published on November 12th, 2018 | by Dan Nicholls0
We have another great film from director Steve McQueen. ‘Widows’ does the heist genre with some new twists, stellar actors playing memorable characters. See it.
Genuine emotion runs deep and the stakes hit home in Widows. It is an engrossing drama that takes the heist genre and steers it into thoughtful commentary that we rarely see outside of Michael Mann. At least until the last act, when it ever-so-slightly folds in on itself. If a conventional ending is the price we have to pay for the extraordinary setup and thematic mining, we should consider ourselves lucky. It’s no Heat but it’s pretty damn great in its own right.
After an expedited thrust through a violent start to her story, Veronica (Viola Davis) is reeling over the loss of her husband Harry (Liam Neeson) when more bad news comes knocking. Harry was a career thief who got away with some of the biggest scores in Chicago history before he and his crew were all taken out on a final job gone wrong. This job targeted the wrong guy. Charismatic and imposing Jamal Manning (a superb Brian Tyree Henry) puts the weight of Harry’s debt on Veronica’s shoulders and not even her connection with high-profile politician (and Jamal’s rival) Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) can save her.
Harry’s magic journal of criminal plans finds its way to Veronica and she’s inspired to settle her late husband’s scores in the most unexpected way: by pulling off Harry’s next big job herself. She recruits her fellow widows Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), whose deceased spouses were part of Harry’s crew. Their ride-or-die bond expands to include additional help from Belle (Cynthia Erivo) and the job is set in motion.
Director Steve McQueen co-wrote the screenplay with Gone Girl author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn. Their combined sensibilities fill the film’s world with indelible characters and scenes that are uniformly excellent while creating some truly distinctive moments. Daniel Kaluuya (Oscar-nominated last year for Get Out) goes full Anton Chigurh as Jamal’s idiosyncratic henchman Jatemme in the movie’s standout role. McQueen’s staging of a particularly vulnerable monologue from Farrell has an artistic touch that surprises. And Viola Davis continues to prove yet again why she’s one of the very best actors working today.
The main trio of Veronica, Alice, and Linda makes for one of the year’s best onscreen teams. Their group dynamic crackles with real life and you can’t help but get invested in their fates. The smart twists and surprises help to keep Widows consistently entertaining and the excellent work from every artist and technician involved marks it high on this year’s “must watch again” list.