'Widows' Film Review - Steve McQueen Tackles Political Corruption & Modern Economics In Spectacular Fashion
By Jack Dignan
When going into a new Steve McQueen film, anything goes. The Oscar winning British director has delivered everything from a brutal prison hunger strike, to a sex addict whose life falls apart because of his addiction, to a harrowing tale of slavery. Throughout his filmography there’s been one constant. Before Widows, it was Michael Fassbender. Now, it’s become clear that it’s something else. McQueen is at his best when dealing with human beings at their absolute lowest, forced to stand up to the scrutiny in their lives and live to see another day. He tells stories of human resilience in the face of adversity, and his latest is no exception.
We live in a politically corrupt world constantly shaped by capitalism. Money is a finite possession, and it’s an object that makes the whole world run rampant. Hence some of us turn to crime. But what happens when a small gang of criminals, left in charge to steal millions of dollars, meets their demise, and the money along with it? Well, let’s just say the people in charge of the operation aren’t happy, and to get their money back, they turn to the widows of the deceased, threatening them into completing the heist and finishing what their late husbands started.
It’s such a fresh and original concept, even if it takes heavy inspiration from the 80s mini-series of the same name. Writer-director Steve McQueen, co-writing the script with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, tackles heavy themes in this politically charged, monetary driven heist film. Their two distinct styles of writing manage to mold together in the most thrilling and unexpected of ways, leading us down an unpredictable rabbit hole that oozes with style and slaps you over the face with its unrelenting commentary of modern economics and political injustice.
The face of Widows is none other than Viola Davis, a powerhouse performer whose fierce charisma and determination to the craft demands more leading roles. Her character Veronica, still getting over the loss of her husband Harry (Liam Neeson), is thrust into an inescapable situation that forces her to hide her pain and whip together a crew capable of getting this money back. She’s tough, but human. While hidden behind a stern look and a disgruntled attitude, McQueen and Flynn always allow time for her humanity to seep through.
Joining her on this mission is a cast so big they could barely fit onto the poster. Davis is assisted by Elizabeth Debicki (the real MVP of the film, making Widows further proof that she’s one day going to rule the Earth), Michelle Rodriquez and Cynthia Ervo, who’s making her feature film debut and leaving quite the impression whilst doing so. There’s no weak link to be found. Each performer brings a unique and necessary layer to this always sophisticated script. They all feel real and developed, and while you may, at first, not feel as if they each get a satisfying conclusion, looking back in retrospect I really dug how the ending was approached.
Another standout comes in the form of Daniel Kaluuya, fresh off of his Oscar nomination from last year’s horror masterpiece Get Out. Kaluuya brings an insidious intensity to the table with a villainous scumbag who knows how to take control and dominate every scene he’s in. An early encounter with some of his brother’s subpar employees is sickening, but executed brilliantly. Frequent McQueen collaborator, cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, captures it all in an unbroken shot, throwing you right into the un-comfortableness of the confrontation and never letting you leave.
One of the sub-plots involving Colin Farrell’s character doesn’t quite make as big of a splash as everything else in the film does, and frequent familiarity of minor plot beats scattered throughout did come as quite a surprise, but it’s the themes that McQueen takes us on that really hits this film home, not to mention the expert craftsmanship and killer performances. This film rocks. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but half an hour after the credits rolled I was already craving a rewatch. Most of McQueen’s films improve with further viewings, and I imagine Widows is no exception. However, let’s be real, the standout was Viola Davis’ dog. If she were brought along for the heist, it would’ve gone a lot smoother.
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