widows

DIRECTOR: steve mcqueen (hunger, shame, 12 years a slave)
STARRING: viola davis, elizabeth debicki, michelle rodriguez, and liam neeson

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

★★★★★

A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows -- Veronica, Linda, Alice and Belle -- have nothing in common except a debt left behind by their spouses' criminal activities. Hoping to forge a future on their own terms, Veronica joins forces with the other three women to pull off a heist that her husband was planning.

When the Widows trailer first surfaced it looked good but still had a paint by numbers heist kinda vibe about it. But with director Steve McQueen and actress Viola Davis its way, way more than that. 

Veronica's (Viola Davis) husband Harry (Liam Neeson) runs a gang of thieves who pull off high stake robberies stealing millions of dollars. But one night everything goes wrong. Harry and his gang are killed in an explosive shoot out with police which completely incinerates all of the stolen cash. Unfortunately the people Harry stole from come demanding the money from Veronica and give her one month to stump up the cash or they'll kill her and the other widows. Enlisting the help of the other widows Linda, Alice, and Belle Veronica they set out to pull off a heist that Harry had been planning. 

Widows is absolutely unrelenting. From the pace of the story, to the violence (boy does it get violent), and to the astonishing ensemble cast, as far as films go its pretty darn perfect. Director Steve McQueen ever so slowly unfurls his plot which some may find a bit slow but the way in which he lets the story unfolds allows you to deeply connect with the characters and get to know what makes them truly tick. 

One of the many things to like about Widows is that we get to experience the whole environment that these characters live in: the gaping divide between rich and poor, the racial tensions, the violence, and the politics that make up this neighbourhood. You feel like you have walked in their shoes.  

 

Politician Jack Mulligan (an outstanding Colin Farrell) is been driven from a political rally to his house and is sitting in the back seat having a bit of a tantrum. We never see him only hearing his voice as the camera sits outside the car showing us the poverty stricken neighbourhood. The car turns a corner as the camera pans and we see the neighbourhood change to a more affluent suburb. It is such a simple but perfectly executed shot which shows us the huge disparity even in one city block.

 

Like I mentioned, this is so much more than a heist movie. Its a commentary on the political and cultural heartbeat of America right now. But McQueen doesn't have to be overtly preachy with heavy exposition about poverty, racial inequality, political corruption, or woman's rights: he just shows us how it really is. 

If you are particularly squeamish you may have to put your hands over your eyes as the violence is quite intense especially the scene in the bowling alley (you'll know it when you see it). I can't remember ever jumping at the sound of a gun shot in a movie either. But I did in Widows

The way that the story twists and turn is reminiscent of Jed Mercurio (creator of the sublime BBC TV thrillers Line of Duty and Bodyguard) as the plot is hurtling one way and is suddenly flipped on its head and shaken inside out making the twists in Widows genuinely shocking. 

The cast of Widows is the best ensemble cast I've seen in a long time led by Viola Davis who gives a fearless, force of nature, every award under the sun worthy performance. We have found a more than worthy successor for Meryl Streep. Just put her in everything already.

 

She is tender, broken, filled with fear and ultimately defiant as she stands up in the face of a world ruled by men and violence and plays them at their own game. Even though her performance is out of this world, there is still so much room for others and they are all utterly brilliant. 

But its Elizabeth Debicki that really stands out as Alice, the widow who was consistently beaten by her deceased husband. Debicki is often reduced to the pretty girl role in other films with not a lot to do but here she is superb as we see and feel her transformation from victim to defiant independence. 

A superb ensemble cast fearlessly led by a force of nature performance from Viola Davis and a plot with twists that genuinely shock.Widows is hands down one of the best films of 2018. 

★★★★★

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Widows is available on DVD, Blu-ray, 4KUHD and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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