Widows: A Refreshing New Take On The Heist Film
From Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and co-writer and bestselling author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) comes an engaging and energetic new slant of the heist thriller. With a fantastic ensemble cast and bold direction, Widows delivers popcorn thrills with a touch of elevation.
The film tells the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
Operating within a predominately male driven genre, Widows (more so than this year’s Ocean’s 8) proves that women are just as capable as men at packing a punch and delivering a compelling, adrenaline fueled thrill ride. And to Widows credit, it does so with uncompromising style and probing depth. The film may be about a heist, but the that’s far from its most important aspect.
On the surface, Widows is a film about female empowerment, with its central characters who are forced into a life of crime so they can have a shot at a normal life, but it also gracefully works its way into the political, commenting on race, power, paternal influence, and history in the process. It cleverly holds politicians in the same hand as thugs, just as it flips the script on the crime film being a place of inherent machismo.
One thing’s for sure: Widows is more than a mere popcorn thriller. But it also doesn’t deny the popcorn thrills, either. It simultaneously denies the traditional rules of the genre while embracing them, giving it an air of familiarity and the feeling of something new and exciting.
McQueen takes bold risks, and more often than not, they payoff. Some of his choices may seem odd at first glance (like the one shot car ride with the camera lingering on the outside of the vehicle while the conversation happening in interior cuts through), but there is logic and motivation underneath it all. He places his unique touch all over the film, which gives it an immense charge, but he’s at peak form in the film’s many long takes (my personal favorite involves Daniel Kaluuya in a gymnasium).
McQueen and Flynn don’t glamourize heists or criminals, but they use them as a means to make socially relevant statements that make Widows an absolute breath of fresh air, especially in a genre that doesn’t generally aspire to say much. Subtly among them are the insecurities of interracial couples, which is an aspect I don’t think I’ve ever seen covered in a film of this genre. There is also a looming presence of parents controlling their adult children, which shines through in both Collin Farrell’s and Elizabeth Debicki’s characters, adding an interesting layer that doesn’t exactly swing full circle.
Of all the performances — and there are many on display here that are excellent — Daniel Kaluuya stands out. He’s capable of being intimidating with just a glance, and when it comes to his actions, he’s proficient at brutally chilling acts of violence. Viola Davis also displays a wide array of emotions and has a commanding presence (along with an adorable Westie that’s she totes around for basically the entire film), but it’s Elizabeth Debicki who (literally) towers over her female counterparts and is sure to collect many new fans with her role here.
To its fault, it sometimes tries to juggle too much, but it handles the load with a surprising amount of grace. It also dives a bit more into the melodramatic than I’d like. Some of the twists, as well as the acting, have the potential to leave a soapy residue in your mouth; however, the pros far outweigh the cons here.
Recommendation: Solidly edited and exceptionally executed, with a phenomenal cast and some genuine twists (which sometimes dip a bit into the sappy), Widows is yet another solid 2018 entry, which is sure to get everyone talking. Go see this!
Rating: 4 adorable Westies outta 5.
What did you think? Were you pleasantly surprised? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well.