Steve McQueen directs Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez in this political heist thriller where three widows of career criminals find themselves caught between destitution and a political heavy if they don’t come up with a jackpot of cash within a month.
Steve McQueen is clearly a great director but his worthier works never really connect with me. Widows stands a better chance and was satisfying. A solid crime thriller, excitingly cast and glossily composed. Viola Davis rocks as the stone cold lead, mastermind and victim, excelling at one, struggling with the shock of being the other. It is a lead performance of steely resolve, possibly her most accessible piece of acting yet. She’s not alone. Elizabeth Debicki fills her part with sensitivity (she also lands a few laughs in what is a relatively po-faced affair). Daniel Kaluuya is muscular and unpredictable as the most proactive antagonist they face. It is also just pleasing to see Michelle Rodriguez in a project that feels more aligned to the promise she showed in her debut of Girlfight all those years ago. Girlfight is an apt comparison piece. A female led genre work that wants to say bigger things than merely ape the formula of its inspirations. As a political film Widows is even more ambitious, it has things to say about corruption, racism, social inequality, sexism and capitalism. There is a brilliant stand out sequence involving one shot of a travelling limo where the conversation, location and framing of the shot all shift to reveal disturbing but unquestionable truths. The heist set pieces are good too but that sequence really will be the moment McQueen’s movie is remembered for. Having said that the realism of the big issues touched on often feels a little trite or basic. It would be fair to say TV shows like The Wire or even Atlanta follow through on the same ideas with a lot more complexity and elegance. Likewise while the pulpier elements are satisfying there are moments that any TV cop show fan will tell you just don’t ring true. And I do feel something with intentions and artistry of Widows should be held to a higher standard than a midweek episode of Bones or Lethal Weapon when it goes to fingerprints on a gun being placed in a dead man’s hand. My last little gripe over what is fine thriller that deserves praise… the trailer gives away a big twist. Not the moviemakers fault but if you have a good memory and are observant avoid checking the adverts out.