A tense, taut & thrilling heist feature that delivers all the delights of its genre without ever compromising with the quality of its content, Widows is Steve McQueen’s most mainstream film to date. Led by smashing performances from its talented ensemble, and packing no shortage of substance, it is undoubtedly amongst the better films of 2018.
Set in contemporary Chicago, the plot follows four women who are brought together by the debt left behind by their recently deceased husbands’ criminal activities. With deadline for payment coming closer and their lives hanging by a thread, they decide to take matters into their own hands and try to pull off a robbery in order to settle the debt and forge their own future.
Co-written & directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame & 12 Years a Slave), the plot is gripping from the get go and only gets more interesting as plot progresses. It doesn’t take long for the film to acquaint us with all the relevant characters but once the board is set and we know what’s at stake, McQueen attempts to dig deeper into their predicament without slowing down the narrative.
Unlike most examples of its genre, there is no greed angle to this picture. Instead, it is more of a survival drama about desperate women who find themselves in an unfair but dangerous situation and must take desperate measures if they are to stay alive. There is no fun planning this heist, no lighthearted moments to be shared between the ladies. It’s serious, cautious & intense as it should be.
Nevertheless, the story would’ve sufficed without that revelation in the middle, for things were riveting enough without that needless twist being shoehorned into the narrative. It brings a certain predictability to the final outcome and takes the focus away from the main plot. And that’s one reason why the ending doesn’t resonate as strongly as the rest of the film did. It was avoidable and it should’ve been avoided.
The technical execution is neat throughout as the film properly utilises the locations & set pieces, plus the imagery is further uplifted by the sophisticated camerawork & tight editing. Like before, McQueen employs a series of long takes that add a sense of tension to the film’s already foreboding aura, and the steady pace helps keep the plot moving at all times. Hans Zimmer’s score is fitting, as it brings restless flavours of its own into the mix.
But it’s the acting department that scores the highest amongst all aspects. Boasting a stellar ensemble of Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall & others, the film benefits a lot from fab inputs from everyone, with Davis, Debicki & Kaluuya impressing the most. Davis is at her usual best, Debicki makes the most of her character’s naiveness but the real standout is Kaluuya’s silent yet vicious showcase.
On an overall scale, Widows marks another fascinating entry in Steve McQueen’s short but acclaimed filmography, and makes for a terrific heist film that delivers on most fronts if not all. Covering themes of loss, grief, survival & transgression while also touching on few topical issues, Widows presents the British filmmaker striving for a well-balanced thriller that juggles substance with entertainment value, and is possibly the only film of his with a certain repeat value. Definitely recommended.