Today: July 9, 2024

Widows

It’s taken its sweet time about it but Hollywood is finally coming around to the fact that films with a predominantly female cast can still do Wonders at the box office. But too often the strategy seems to be, ‘take what worked for the guys and just recast it with an all female cast’. Hence Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eight. On paper Widows could easily be read as an all female Heat – it certainly shares a lot of similarities to Michael Mann’s crime opus – but what Steve McQueen has created is as intricate, layered and textured as Mann’s film but with a sense of being something a little more meaty, a little more politically charged.

When her husband’s latest heist goes wrong, Veronica (Viola Davis) is threatened by the people he had just robbed to get the money or suffer the consequences. Her life in disarray she turns to the fellow widows of her husband’s gang, knowing full well they are in just as much dire straits. With the help of Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) the gang come together, despite their differences, to figure out who they are in the world outside of the shadow of their former partners. But the world they enter is various shades of grey, and pulling off the heist will come with plenty of twists and turns.

Based on Lynda La Plante’s ‘80s TV series and co-written by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn, Widows is a weighty drama that refuses to conform to just one thing. Every time it feels as if it’s going down a familiar path it shifts your focus in a delicate manner. Watching it you are reminded of the bastion of great crime shows, The Wire. Like that film the city it’s set in, here Chicago, is key to the film. Similarly Widows takes in every aspect of a bustling metropolis. From the crime we follow to the politics, religion, the social pecking order, right down to the most relevant hottopics of America now such as Black Lives Matters and gun crime.

Trying to cover off this many zeitgeist issues for many would be too much. But Steve McQueen does so with the deftness of touches. His camera glides and revolves around this world and the disparate characters who occupy it. It’s immersive and tense without ever feeling the need to up the ante with extravagant set pieces. Instead when things kick-off there is a subtlety and nuance to proceedings. A smart comment on how a female crew would execute a heist without ever feeling the need to go in all guns blazing as their male counterparts would. At times it aims a little high, some of the twists feel a little too forced but cramming this much into such a tight film you forgive it such minor sins.

Without exception the cast are stunning. The central four key female characters are simply brilliant. By now we’re used to seeing Viola Davis light up the screen with her one hundred yard death stare. Rodriguez, normally more at home in the kind of macho action films Widows is rebelling against, brings a sense of angered desperation. Debicki finds a fragile naviety to the group, but one that allows her character to go through the biggest and most engaging character arc. Meanwhile the breakout start is Cynthia Erivo her maternal strength is smile inducingly powerful. She might also be the only actor in living memory to be able to run as powerfully on screen as Tom Cruise.

Intricate, powerful and compellingly relevant, Widows builds a world, lures you in and lets you inhabit it creating the very definition of a character crime thriller.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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