Widows is the newest film from Steve McQueen, director of such critical darlings as 12 Years a Slave and Shame. It is based on the TV series of the same name, following the widows of three criminals who are forced to repay their late husbands’ debt.
This movie was so much deeper than you ever would have expected. At its heart, it is a heist thriller, and a great one at that, but there are other elements at play in this film, too. It also becomes a political thriller with commentary that is strikingly relevant.
This movie kept the audience on the edge of its seat for most of its runtime, largely because it doesn’t follow the formula of the average heist film. A lot less time is invested in the planning of the heist, and more time is spent on developing the characters and heightening the stakes. Because of this, we are always anticipating what is coming next and care about what happens to the players involved.
The political storyline is equally interesting. There’s actually quite a bit going on in the movie, but it does a good job of balancing all of these things and tying them together. The character of Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) absolutely feels like a real politician in the way the film develops him. This is truly an important cautionary tale about the influence of power on one’s psyche.
The characters involved in the heist are also thoroughly compelling. The protagonist, Veronica (Viola Davis) is extremely sympathetic. Viola Davis delivers yet another phenomenal performance that is sure to rack up votes come awards season. Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) has an extremely interesting storyline as well. She is perhaps the most deeply developed of the supporting characters.
The antagonists are very well-written too. Brian Tyree Henry is great as Jamal Manning. He has the right balance of charisma and intimidation to pull the role off. Daniel Kaluuya absolutely knocks it out of the park, though. There is one scene in particular in which he shines, delivering the dialogue in the most anxiety-inducing way possible.
Steve McQueen’s impact on this film is obvious. He and Gillian Flynn took a story that very well could have been typical and turned it into so much more. The story became intensely human and character-driven, which is quite rare for the genre. Then, McQueen added some flair in the execution.
Certain scenes play out in ways that probably would not have worked if it were anyone else than McQueen in the director’s chair. One that jumps out is a conversation that takes place in a car. The two people involved are only heard, not shown, as the camera focuses on the car and its surroundings. This is surprisingly effective and adds a lot to the movie’s deeper meaning.
Overall, Widows was a very impressive film — one of the year’s best. It has complex characters, an interesting story, and great execution. This is one you won’t want to miss.
Widows opens in theaters November 16.