+ Recommended – R, Crime, Drama (129 minutes)
While not the best heist thriller ever, Widows does, indeed, satisfy a craving for carefully crafted filmmaking and high adrenaline. It finds a rhythm and sticks to it, all while being stylistically sound and deeply grounded. These characters feel real, and the contemporary Chicago setting reflects what’s unfortunately occurring in the U.S. today. The stellar cast adds even more flavor to the already existing strong direction from director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave).
There are many elements floating about in this crime drama; a political thriller, a heist backdrop, and then life in modern day America and the effects the city life has on minority communities. After a heist gone wrong, the widows of a crew come together to formulate one last job that will clear their names of the life. Free to follow any path they choose and not simply linger in the shadows of their late counterparts. Even through the dark elements, loss and grief to name a couple, hope is felt on a larger level than expected. The women struggle to escape a life that wasn’t in their control, and such, evokes empathy from a broader audience through the performances and the way the film is cut.
Widows is smart. Rather than provide needless exposition, you’re thrust right into the middle of this conflict with an ensemble for the ages. The core of the film centers around Henry (Liam Neeson) and Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis). Henry is the leader of a gang, and post-death Veronica fills the position for her late husband. Among Henry’s companions are Florek (Jon Bernthal), Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Jimmy Nunn (Coburn Goss). Veronica’s team includes Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and Belle (Cynthia Erivo). But that’s not all: the cast is rounded out by political figures, Jack (Colin Farrell) and Tom (Robert Duvall) Mulligan. Opposite of them on the political spectrum: Jamal Manning (Brain Tyree Henry). And last, but certainly not least, Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) in his most terrifying role to date. Yes, soak in the endless possibilities of what this cast can do.
All of these plots overlap with one another and seep into each other in unexpected ways. For some, it might not feel very focused or maybe even disjointed, but there’s a clear connection between these rival narratives. The one problem I had is that while it didn’t feel like two distinct movies, I felt as if I was missing out on more time with each of the separate stories. I craved more detail regarding the heist that the widows plan and I desperately wanted the political thriller to intensify a bit more. That’s not to say that the different parts are poorly structured in a way the audience can’t follow, but some might desire more time to sulk in the dense atmosphere and invest even more emotion into these rich characters.
While there is some incredible camera work by Sean Bobbitt (12 Years a Slave): including several tracking shots and slow pans across a terrain, especially that car scene, and a score by the great Hans Zimmer, the diversity among the cast is wildly important for our time. Widows not only proves that it’s possible to put women in the driver’s seat, but that inclusion can impact, and unify, the community. There’s no weak direction, acting, or writing to be found in Widows. It’s a superb, gripping, and timeless piece that’s skillfully captures the state of our country and makes a point of demonstrating inclusion while being equally engaging. Make a trip to the theatre.