Film Review – Widows


DIRECTED BY: Steve McQueen

STARRING: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jon Bernthal, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Harney, Lukas Haas, Matt Walsh, Adepero Oduye, Ann Mitchell and Kevin J. O’Connor

 

SYNOPSIS

Set in contemporary Chicago, amidst a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

Widows tells the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica, Alive, Linda and Belle take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future in their own terms.

Widows is Steven McQueen’s feature length followup to 2013’s 12 Years A Slave, who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Gone Girl author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn, based on 80’s ITV television series of the same name. The film opens with a car chase sequence between the robbers and the cops, which results in the death of the robbers and thus we focus on the Widows having to deal with the aftermath. Harry’s wife, Veronica, is met by Jamal Manning, a local and powerful figure that’s running for alderman, who reveals that her husband and her group stole his money and that he wants her to pay back what they stole….or else. With a message left by her husband if he ever passed away, Veronica discovers Harry’s journal, a list of every bit of dirt he has done or have over someone, as well as plans for his next job. Veronica meets with the other widows to hatch the plans of the next job to not only pay off Jamal Manning, but split the rest amongst themselves to start a new life.

 

Steven McQueen’s heist thriller is not your ordinary, generic heist thriller. With its Chicago setting, the film throws shade at political corruption with the sub-plot of Jamal Manning, a local criminal looking to go legit, going up against Jack Mulligan, a man that’s part of a local political dynasty, to become alderman of the 18th ward. We see how Jack wants to become his own man, yet is disgusted with being left to clean up the mess made by his father that the local media presses him about. The two men aren’t the only ones looking to have a fresh start. Taking on the advice of her mother, Alice is is doing a stint as a ‘online escort’, with a guy named David helping her maintain the lifestyle she knows, while Linda loses the business she thought she owned which is taken away due to her late-husband’s crippling gambling debt. Then the one that becomes attached to the heist is Belle, a woman trying to make ends meet with two jobs (hairdresser by day, babysitter by night), but sacrifices her time to earn rather than be with her daughter. The film is nicely paced to set up everyones motivations and the actions that follow during this slow-cooked heist thriller and it’s nicely edited together by Joe Walker and some good cinematography by Sean Bobbitt. McQueen’s direction is also very good here, with a few particular sequences that caught my attention. The first one being Daniel Kaluuya’s Jatemme, Jamal’s brother and enforcer, who quite literally gets in the face of one his lackey’s whilst he forces them to rap before abruptly cutting him short. The way the camera rotates and makes you pay attention to every detail of Jatemme’s actions is riveting. There’s the sequence involving Farrell’s Mulligan and Molly Kunz as his aid Siobhan, coming from a ‘Minority Women Owned Work’ rally to his home/campaign HQ, which is shot from the outside of the car whilst they’re monologuing, showcasing the class difference alone between the neighbourhoods in such a short distance, regardless of how much as Jack’s claim is to work for the everyday people. The film has one of the best ensembles of the year and definitely has some performances that could prove worthy of nomination come award season. One in particular is Viola Davis as Veronica, who is her powerhouse self as we learn of the history of her relationship with Harry before his death and how she tries to carry the job on her shoulders in keeping the other widows in line whilst she tries to maintain strong without letting his passing and the pressure of Jatemme following her every move get to her. Elizabeth Debicki is also impressive as Alice, who was abused by her late-husband and has grown up with a mother that’s only taught her how to use her looks to get what she wants, and we witness her progression as she stands up to Veronica belittling her and becomes a vital member of the group for the job ahead. Daniel Kaluuya is a menacing presence as Jatemme, and gets the more meaty scenes out of the Manning brothers, though Brian Tyree Henry gets to provide menace through monologues alone.

 

The story itself could be considered paper thin to stretch out for a two hour and nine minute run time, but that’s primarily if the audience member goes in expecting an all out heist thriller. If you’re expectation was seeing how Liam Neeson’s group operated the robbery that gone wrong then think again. If your expectation was for the film to be all about this heist and for it to be a billion to one shot type job, then think again. You can tell that Gillian Flynn was involved as quite a number of scenes are sharp with the dialogue, but also the film takes a particular turn to setup the second half and add a certain air of intensity, but some might be put off by the shenanigans to set that up. In general it could be argued that the film could take too long to get to the eventual job itself.

 

VERDICT

While it could be argued that the film may take a little too long to get to the actual job itself and does believe that it’s too smart for its own good, this heist thriller from Steve McQueen is his most commercial outing yet, but still he’s more confident focusing on characters and their motivations to succeed in any aspect. Viola Davis gives a powerhouse performance, Elizabeth Debicki is impressive with her character arc and Daniel Kaluuya brings the menace and dread to the Widows plans. 8/10

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