In recent years there has been a well-intentioned trend toward rebooting beloved franchises with all-female casts. The problem hasn’t been the intention, but the use of sub-par material that hasn’t exactly allowed the idea to shine. The fault has never been the use of gender as a selling point (although the worst parts of the internet would have you believe otherwise) but solid original material. Steve McQueen’s latest film, Widows is proof of how to succeed with the right story. A brilliant thriller that shines in its twists and turns, its stellar performance, technical execution and surprising relevance.
A carefully planned heist goes horribly wrong and the four men involved are killed. Their wives are not only left with grief but with the burden of having to pay back the money that was stolen from a local crime boss. Veronica takes her place as the leader of the group but finds she must rely on all to get the job done.
It’s fair to say there are certain formulaic elements of a crime thriller and a large part of that is the execution of a Heist. Yet when four essentially unknown women who chose to ignore their partner’s criminal life decide to plan a job it feels like the set-up for a comedy. Widows understands this and focuses on the drama and grief of lives torn apart.
The heist plan that comes together is exceedingly elaborate and possibly works a little too well given the experience of the team pulling it off. The plot would suggest a diary with all the details helps out but it is perhaps the one bit of too much fantasy that nothing actually goes wrong for a bunch of amateurs. Additionally the big twist is quite obvious and not nearly as clever as it the films seems to think it is. Still despite that there are numerous double crosses and twist that make it feel capable and exciting.
Still it’s a drama and none fully embodies then the tone of the film than Viola Davis. Her strength and intelligence masks an inability to understand how life goes on. She only hints at times of her being overwhelmed instead using coldness to keep people at a distance. It is Davis’s vehicle but she had a huge cast supporting and complimenting her from Michelle Rodriguez to Liam Neeson.
Widows from a technical standpoint is truly special. Whether it be the set up of a shot, the use of noise or the moody use of Han Zimmer’s soundtrack. A notable sequence involves a conversation as a politician rants about how his neighbourhood has gone to hell. You can’t see inside the car but the viewer follows the exterior which on one side of the car is urban poverty, the car turns the corner and the camera focuses on the other side where wealth and affluence begin to become prevalent. It such a deliberate choice in a movie filled with such powerful choices.
It’s not just that Widows is such a well executed thriller but it also has something to say as a social commentary. It’s not just a drama but an examination of things such as the #Metoo and Black Lives Matter movements and even something as complicated as redistricting or Gerrymandering is present. It doesn’t pause to take it in or point it out but just simply presents are cruel reality for these characters.
‘Widows’ Review Cheat Sheet.
Widows is an amazingly strong and intelligent thriller. Buoyed by strong performance and a steady director it is truly exciting to watch and while it stumble in conventional tropes and flights of fancy it is still something to behold.
+Great cast lead by Viola Davis
+ Lots of twists and turns in this super relevant thriller.
+Technical achievement for a grimy dark movie.
-The implausibility of the heist.
-The big twist is not all that shocking.