Release date: 6th November 2018/Watch the trailer here
Widows is the kind of film that’s brimming with talent: directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) with a screenplay that was co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and starring a huge ensemble cast made up of A-list actors. Based on the successful 1980s British television series of the same name (written by Lynda La Plante), McQueen’s take on the story sees the location change to present-day Chicago, where a police shootout has left four thieves dead during an armed robbery gone wrong. Their widows – Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) – join forces, brought together by the only thing they have in common: a debt left behind by the criminal activities of their deceased husbands. Given just one month to repay the money owed to crime boss Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), Veronica and her fellow widows attempt to pull off the heist that her late husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), had been planning prior to his death.
Flynn’s stamp on Widows is evident in the film’s twisting, turning plot, comprised of several different threads, all of which satisfyingly come together around the halfway mark. It’s a film with a vast, sprawling cast of characters, so it’s impressive that Widows not only finds the time to tell its story in a rewarding manner, but for characterisation, too: each character is developed just enough for them to feel three-dimensional, so that the audience understands their motivations; rooting for the widows in their desperate, last-ditch effort to survive. Of course, it helps that McQueen has assembled such a first-rate cast to bring these characters to life – although it should come as no surprise that the film’s standout performance is from Davis.
Surprising, too, is the way in which Widows balances entertainment with substance: for every edge-of-your-seat car chase or shootout, McQueen’s film also tackles some serious sociological issues, dealing with everything from sexism to police brutality. It succeeds as both a classic heist movie, gripping and fun in equal measures, and something with a bit more depth and thoughtfulness to it, too – and it’s the more pensive moments that elevate Widows above and beyond most other films of the same genre.
That’s not to say that Widows is a film entirely without flaws, however: the heist that the whole film builds up to for almost two hours of its runtime feels disappointingly rushed and anti-climatic in comparison. Still, this is a minor criticism of a film that, for the most part, is an immensely rewarding experience, even if it frustratingly falls just short of the greatness that McQueen, Flynn, and their stellar cast are capable of.