Widows is a project that marries two brilliant creatives. After loving Steve McQueen’s two most recent films (I still haven’t seen Hunger) plus having my eyes opened to Gillian Flynn via Gone Girl, when I first read they were trying to work together on something I was filled with excitement.
What they have brought to screens is Widows, surprisingly based on an ITV production of the same name. In execution it fits perfectly in their wheelhouse, with Flynn co-writing such strong female leads, tackling all sorts of themes and throwing in all manner of nicely spooled turns expected in the heist genre.
Beyond direction and writing the final lynchpin before filtering through the rest of a brilliant collaboration is the always perfect Viola Davis. Every role she plays makes it feel like no-one else could have played it, she’s just that formidable as an acting force. And you get the full range from her here, making you buy into her reactions and dealing with the situation, you are ready to watch how she tackles adversity and fight her way through to the end.
The rest of the ensemble deserve all of the props, whether it’s Debicki, Rodriguez, or Erivo, or Farrell or Duval, Henry, or even Kaluuya, who himself plays such an wonderfully intense and threatening foe you feel tense around in every scene he’s in.
Widows sounds and at times is high concept, it’s by no means a Heat, but the heist pulled off by widows of professional criminals pulls you in. What is more worth noting is how despite the ensemble and the idea, Widows is executed so subtle, and understated. McQueen can do so much with so little, and that’s full force here. The camera is calculated, and the editing is succinct, where subtext and inference is king. McQueen knows his audience is intelligent, so he never spells it out for us. Which is refreshing, and makes for a damn fine voice in film.
Widows is the well oiled machine of so many perfect parts coming together, and it has all of the substance you’d look for beyond the style. Corruption, politics, race, gender, generations, interracial marriage, extortion, so many ideas are tackled and handled wonderfully here.
It’s not perfect, which is a shame, but with so much going right for it, of course there are some trip-ups on the journey. Some plot threads sorta fizzle towards the end of them. Some sorta go unmentioned. The exploration of some characters to such an extent means that others fall by the wayside. It doesn’t carry enough emotional weight to move you and it doesn’t quite propel you to utterly love every second.
Much like the heist the film is built around, Widows is calculated. But like most movie heists, there’s always something that isn’t quite to plan that stops it being the perfect job.