Widows: Crime Drama Masquerading As a Heist Film
An adaptation of an old 1980’s BBC miniseries, Widows is the story of a group of women, all of whom are in debt, thanks to their husbands’ criminal activities. They decide to take actions into their own hands and plot a robbery. Less of a conventional heist film, and more of a crime drama, this strongly directed Steve McQueen film successfully conveys its social commentaries and themes rather well, and is helped by a terrific cast. Widows is nothing short of a hard edged, terrific thriller, and should be a major Oscar contender in some categories.
The reason that Widows works as well as it does is largely due to its assembled cast. The three main leads, Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki, are all quite good. Davis, in particular, plays a cynical, mopey widow, who doesn’t know she is married to a bank robber played by Liam Neeson. This film features one of the most genuine performances I’ve seen from Michelle Rodriguez in a long time. Her character is quite vulnerable. The other thing I appreciated about the film was how the leads didn’t come off as best friends, but as bickering enemies who can’t agree on anything.
Meanwhile, there’s also a plot involving Colin Farrell as a politician running for a local office, who winds up getting involved in the widows’ scheme, while his father, played by Robert Duvall, is constantly disapproving of his son’s decisions. There’s also Daniel Kaluuya, as Jatemme Manning, the brother of Jamal Manning, a crime boss, and essentially, the antagonist of the film. Kaluuya’s character is scarily evil in a cartoonish and wonderful way. In one scene, he goes to meet a man at a bowling alley and threatens him violently, but it somehow becomes almost comical.
The film is photographed beautifully, and the cinematography by McQueen’s regular, Sean Bobbitt, is gritty and glossy with an authentic “street feel” to it. Hans Zimmer composes the musical score like he did with McQueen’s last 12 Years A Slave (2013), but for the most part, the score didn’t stand out, except for when the music really matched up with the tension on the screen during the robbery sequence. I was reminded of Zimmer’s musical score from Dunkirk (2017) and how it was constructed without an actual theme.
There are some potential story problems with the conflict of the heist and drama on screen, but the pairing between McQueen’s style and co-screenwriter/novelist, Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), proves to be noteworthy. There’s no real “laugh-out loud” humorist moments, per se, just bits of perceived black humor, or things that I might have found unintentionally funny.
Widows isn’t just content with giving us a standard heist and robbery film. No, the movie goes a step further to give its characters some depth. While its overall violent tone may draw some people away from it, I thought it fit with the film very well. It’s not so much about the robbery, as it is about exploring social ideas and norms, and these are presented in such a way that they don’t feel hamfisted or shoehorned, but are woven into various storylines perfectly, which I appreciated. Highly recommended.
Now playing in Hanover at The Nugget Theater, Monday - Thursday at 4:10, and 6:45 PM, Friday at 6:45 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 and 6:45 PM.