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Widows – Movie Review

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Widows – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox

The heist film is a tried-and-true genre with a specific formula to it, albeit one that has resulted in many an entertaining picture. Leave it to Steve McQueen to spice things up with Widows, which takes advantage of our knowledge of them. The decision to dispose of the robbers in the opening scene allows for a different direction to be taken when we see the effects of their deaths on their wives. There are multiple plot threads and characters to follow in Widows, yet McQueen never makes the plot too confusing or convoluted. We have a general idea of where everyone is and what is going through their heads.

The plotting of Widows is so intricate that a scene could be focusing on one character, but there isn’t a wish to immediately jump to what somebody else is doing. The screenplay, credited to McQueen and Gillian Flynn and adapting the British television series, gives proper arcs to every single one of the participants. While the widows are the central figures of the story, there is also plenty of time spent on a local election for alderman. That subplot could be seen as superfluous, but actually makes a lot of sense within the larger context of the plot. Those moments also allow McQueen to comment on the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that goes on in politics.

What McQueen also does superbly is show the contrast between the widows, plus the woman they hire as their driver. There is a general idea of their lives and their financial resources and these help flesh out the characters. There is a lot more time spent on their personal lives than on the plotting of the heist and they spend far more time alone than together. Viola Davis’s Veronica is given the most screentime and it’s a performance filled with a lot of hurt and anger as she attempts to understand her husband’s actions. Elizabeth Debicki, meanwhile, gives a stand-out performance as the least bright of the group, but still with ideas to offer. Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda gets the least interesting plotline, but that’s only because of how strong her co-star’s stories are.

Throughout it all is a creeping menace from Daniel Kaluuya. McQueen gives him a number of scenes that show what a truly vicious person his character is and they provide some of the film’s biggest shocks. As shown in his previous work, he is a filmmaker not afraid of showing violence, but in a way that fits the story he’s telling rather than being merely gratuitous. The sound work and cinematography are also examples of his cinematic eye. One long shot with a car driving down a road is particularly clever, working both to highlight Colin Farrell’s politician and the state of his local ward. Widows also allows McQueen to flex his action muscles with some spectacularly done sequences.

There is a lot happening in Widows with a ton of information to process, but it’s all explained crystal clear. This is a well paced and carefully crafted heist film with more emphasis on the characters and less on the actual planning of it all. Steve McQueen wants us to understand who they are before they pull off the robbery and that gives more impact to the actual event. Bringing in Gillian Flynn to help adapt Widows also means we get plenty of great dialogue to compliment McQueen’s direction. This is a movie that even fleshes out the dog Veronica carries with her throughout the film.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison