Directed by: Steve McQueen
Screenplay by: Gillian Flynn & Steve McQueen
Based on ‘Widows’ by Lynda La Plante
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Garret Dillahunt, Carrie Coon, Jacki Weaver, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo with Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson
Run Time: 2h 9min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
3 1/2 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
‘Widows’ promises a contemporary heist thriller that’ll blow your mind and it delivers. Not surprisingly, Viola Davis delivers. With regards to whether it can be successful or not, Director Gary Ross gave us a fruitful turn in substituting men for women in ‘Ocean’s Eight.’ With that in mind, why not make an intense female-led Chicago caper? Academy Award®-winning director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Shame) and co-writer and bestselling author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) say, ‘Yes!’ to the challenge. That said, they give Davis a chance to once again show her passion and push her onscreen presence. She goes deep with the character of Veronica who’s put into a situation she wasn’t ready for. However, once backed into a corner, she can more than handle herself. Though realizing she must be guarded with everyone she comes in contact with, she never loses what makes her feminine. She even flaunts it, proud to be the opposite of what she’s come to know.
Set in modern-day Chicago, we are first introduced to men who say goodbye to their wives and meet for a job set up by their boss, Harry Rawlings (Neeson). This is done so well that you forget the name of the title for a few minutes. When all the men abruptly die, in an action-packed opening sequence, mind you, you’re kind of taken by surprise. This is one of several times that will happen to you. Rather cunningly, as we got acquainted with their husbands, we also met with the soon to be widows. After the death of their husbands, we get to know each of these women more closely one by one. We are also introduced to two more key figures. One is a man who has been in Chicago politics for a long time, Jack Mulligan (Farrell). The other is gangster and rival ready to shut him down named, Jamal Manning (Henry). Mulligan is used to getting what he wants no matter what’s at stake, a trait he’s learned from his father, Tom (Duvall), but Manning is there to show him who’s in charge. He starts not by directly assaulting Mulligan but by showing up at the doorstep of Harry Rawling’s widow. He needs money to compete with Mulligan and Rawlings owed him two million dollars. Harry may be dead, but the debt still has to get paid. Veronica is told she has one month to pay. Once he makes it clear to her what he wants, he pays a visit to the other widows, too.
Veronica is given a notebook that Harry has held for her. Frightened but not intimidated, Veronica, opens the book and prepares. Armed with the book that has full instructions for the next job, she gets the women she’s in this with together to tackle the task. With the take, they could walk away with a million apiece after paying Manning back. Alice (Debicki) is an abused wife who’s in immediately. She’s been mistreated her entire life and it’s time for her to take control for a change. Linda (Rodriguez) wants in because she has lost her business due to what Manning has taken from her. They also enlist the help of a young mother by the name of Belle (Erivo) who comes in especially handy for what she’s capable of.
What’s most intriguing about ‘Widows’ is that these women are prepared to do what it takes come what may. It takes some time but they end up fully supporting one another in their quest for some justice. As we watch them grow and train, things come to light about who they were married to and now what they’re up against. Veronica and Alice blossom the most. Into what, we’re not sure, but the ending just might be hinting at a sequel.
The cinematography by Sean Bobbitt, who often works with McQueen, is genius. It takes some of the more ordinary scenes of the narrative (for which there are many) and makes them extraordinary. There are political, anti-feminist, misanthropic and racial tones which will speak to some of the audience but won’t feel like it’s baiting those not interested in hearing it. The acting is top of the line and I simply adored the characters. See ‘Widows’ on the big screen this weekend.