“WIDOWS” is directed by Steve McQueen who also co-wrote the screenplay with Gillian Flynn based on the 80’s British TV series. The plot centers around the wives of a group of criminals who are left with their husbands debt after they are all killed on a job. With a month to pay, they will have to work together to complete a heist that will solve their problems on their terms. With enough money to start new lives. If they can pull it off.
Steve McQueen is a fantastic director with a strong resume, and Gillian Flynn is an exceptional writer. Give them both compelling source-material to work with and a strong ensemble cast with names like Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson, and many more I felt confident that this would be a very structured, well-acted heist film. One of the most satisfying feelings is going into a movie with high expectations and walking out of the theater feeling they were met and exceeded to an extent. I had a great time watching this moody story play out. It had a plot-line that wove many interesting pieces together. It was loaded with great performances that created characters with strongly rooted emotional layers. With the direction of McQueen crafting a variety of visual appeal to complement it all.
Now I had never seen the mini-series and knew very little about it prior to watching this one. From the promo-material, this looked like a layered crime-drama revolving around a heist and four female lead characters put in a fish-out-of-water scenario. I’ve seen hundreds of crime-thrillers like these centering on a group of tough male leads engaging in criminal activities of all kinds. The thought of what happens to the women in these men’s lives after the third-act in their films was a very interesting concept. And honestly a refreshing break from the normalcy of the casting techniques in this genre. It had potential and it without question delivered on it with a deep story-line that incorporated a variety of characters and two focal plot-lines into one intriguing narrative that made two-hours feel like only one.
The construction of the film was very smooth. It showed a focus on continual forward movement with a creative use of flashbacks that came in short, timely doses. I feel longer flashbacks can sometimes pull you from the main story. In this one they worked perfectly to drop informative splashes of substance into the backdrop throughout the progression of these women trying to get out of the issue their husbands put them in. There could have been more, but there was enough to understand and relate to where they were coming from.
The first-act may feel slightly choppy. But as it continued the pieces fell into place perfectly for a moody plot like this one. It effectively gripped onto my attention and kept me fascinated in where things would go. The separate pieces in this story continually get closer together and when they begin to overlap there was genuine unpredictability and uneasiness. With the addition of some extremely well-timed twists that made me feel more involved in the plot progression. There were a lot of characters but I thought there was just enough meat to all of them. There was a motivation given to each of them both good and bad, and their solo scenes were able to provide depth to what motivated them. This group of wives all came from different cultures, backgrounds, and social-classes. But this debt left by their husbands forced them to work together and these dynamics were realistically captured to build a true feeling that it could go either way in the third-act.
The story weaved layers of politics, corruption, organized-crime, and a criminal heist into a single story with a skillful attention-to-detail. It added onto that with a talented cast that was able to quickly build character personas to make the most of already great written material. Each one of them has a purpose, some of them fuel the actions of the others which I felt created some authentic drama. But I will say I think this could have been a longer film to allow for more time with each of the wives like Davis was given.
Viola Davis though was rightfully the anchor of the film and she delivered a fantastic performance with layers of intelligence, determination, and capability. Topped off with just enough vulnerability to humanize her. Something that made me root for her success much more, because I was able to put myself in her position. There was a complexity to her I connected with and it continually fueled my intrigue in the story-line and if they could accomplish this heist. The other standout in the cast despite everyone delivering great performances, was Daniel Kaluuya. He was ruthless in this role with a dead-look behind the eyes that was exactly what this character needed. Kaluuya took on a role that we have seen a thousand times. But with his performance he without question left a lasting impression because he took the role and made it his own. Which is why to me he stole every scene he was in much like Davis accomplished.
As I said it was a well-crafted film from a technical aspect. The cinematography was crisp and provided the film ironically a warm feeling despite the cold somber tone of the subject-matter. I thought the framing of certain shots gave off appealing visual perspectives. Throughout the story the visuals were able to capture both the intensity of the action-sequences, and the weight of the more emotionally dramatic moments, with the same needed impact.
What I enjoyed most about this one was the fact it centered on female characters in roles that would usually be written for men. But treated them no different. This group of women were the underdogs in this plot. Given the situations, the same would be true if they were men. Even if those men were the usual hardened criminal, or ex-military personas with loads of physical intimidation. Which we usually see in these films. I appreciated the fact the writing gave them no allowances or plot conveniences simply because they were women. The story forced onto them, the same issues and roadblocks the scenarios could naturally create for anyone. To me this resulted in the movie not watering down the difficulty and skill needed to pull off what they were trying to accomplish. This had me locked in from start-to-finish and I recommend this one without question. It was skillfully crafted on many levels and more important it will grab your attention and not let go.
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