Widows - 2018
Director(s): Steve McQueen
Writer(s): Steve McQueen and Gillin Flynn
Cinematography by: Sean Bobbitt
Editor(s): Joe Walker
Cast: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon, Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Molly Kunz and Jon Bernthal
"Widows" has been on my "most anticipated" movie list of 2018. Honestly, how could it not, it is directed by one of the most talented directors of this generation, Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Shame, and Hunger), co-written by Gillin Flynn (Gone Girl), edited by Joe Walker (Arrival and Blade Runner 2049) and scored by Hans Zimmer (everything). The talent behind the camera looks like the “All-Star game” of Hollywood and the talent in front, led by the incomparable Viola Davis is nothing to sneeze at either (see above). After finally getting to see it, I feel the trailer misguided my expectations, but I still walked away loving my experience. Let's talk about it.
The story centers around a group of recently widowed women. Their husbands were known to be career criminals, and after a job gone wrong, their widows are now stuck with a debt they can't pay. Veronica (Davis) receives a notebook from her late husband (Neeson), detailing his most lucrative heist yet. She recruits the rest of the group to pull off the heist and pay-back the money before it is too late. McQueen and Flynn wrote a beautifully detailed script, jammed packed with moments and visuals that say more than any line of dialogue uttered. The first five minutes of this movie is a master class of introducing characters, where they stand in life, their motivations and how they will act moving forward, without receiving a single word of expositional dialogue. This movie is also a perfect example of how to write compelling female characters, as they don't shy away from showing their flaws, their fears, and their shortcomings, but no matter how much the world around them (especially the male characters) want to beat them down they rise to meet the challenge. Debicki's character is the best example, as she is used and beaten by every single person around her, including her mother, yet she fines self-worth and the hunger to survive.
The script also shows how amateurish the group is and grounds the heist in realism. While there is some humor woven throughout, the sense of desperation as the looming threat of the group looking to collect the debt is always present in the background. An aspect I enjoyed about the script is how "matter of fact" the actual heist felt. Don't get me wrong the heist sequence is shot, edited and acted very well, but it is not a grandiose sequence a la Ocean’s Eleven, it is a quick in and out like a heist of that nature would play-out. This decision is an aspect some audience members will have the issue with given the fact that the trailer plays up the heist element of the film.
Quick note: while I enjoyed the story of the film, I feel it could've been trimmed down a bit, especially the amount of time dedicated to the politics and the relationship between Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell.
The camera work from McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt There is a sequence in where Collin Farrell's character, he plays a corrupt politician running for a district in Chicago, is driving away from the "ghetto." he was speaking at, and the camera sits on the outside of the car. We see the sidewalks and the building change, along with the "vote" for signs on the grass. In a matter of minutes, we see Chicago's gentrification as the neighborhood goes from rundown houses to mini mansions with just a couple of blocks. McQueen also used a lot of shots of the widows looking at their reflections, wondering who and what type of person they are becoming.
The acting. Viola Davis is one of the greatest actors working today. Period. She can carry any mediocre TV show (How to Get Away with Murder) and be a stand-out in any mediocre movie (Suicide Squad), so watching her in the hands of talents writers and a talented director was impressive. He on-screen presence was magnetic. Davis can switch from menacing to depressed in a heartbeat and takes the audience along for the ride. McQueen is known to get incredible performances from his actors and Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki are shining examples. Rodriguez is a vulnerable yet strong mother looking for a way to provide a bright future for her children. JDED is a broken woman that has let the world tell her what she is worth, and now she is taking control of who she is in this world. Also, in a minimal role, when compared to her role in Bad Times at El Royale, Cynthia Erivo is wonderful, and I am very excited for her future.
Daniel Kaluuya is one of the most menacing villains I’ve seen put to film in a long time. He was genuinely intimidating, and I love how all his scenes were shot. Now as for Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell, I'm not sure they were in the same movie as the rest of the cast. Farrell's accent was all over the place, and Duvall felt as if he was improvising his lines, creating a disjointed feeling from the scenes they weren't part off.
Widows is an excellent heist thriller that focuses on the before and after effects of the crimes usually depicted on screen. With a stellar female cast, with challenging roles, the acting is by far the best selling point of this film. While this isn’t the best McQueen movie to date, it is a hard catalog to top; it is by far his most mainstream and accessible movie to date. I can’t recommend this movie enough. Steve McQueen is why I love movies.
Widows is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
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