Adam sees Widows and has called it The Best of 2018. The newest film from Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen made its West Cost Premiere at Beyond Fest 2018.
Heat, The Town, Reservoir Dogs all high points in the Heist film genre. All have one other thing in common; little to no room for the Women in their respective worlds. Each also has their troubling portraits of women in this situations. Director Steve McQueen and Writer Gillian Flynn have concocted a heady brew from this vacancy and trouble portrayals of women. Widows comes fully formed and without reservation a blistering crime thriller with the women front and center.
The film opens where most would end. A crew of expert criminals, led by Henry Rawlins (Liam Neeson), is gunned down by the Chicago PD just as have completed their latest heist. Rawlins and his men stole $2 million from Jamal Crawford (Brain Tyree Henry) a Crime Boss turned Political Candidate. Angered by this Jamal presses Rawlins’ widow Veronica (Viola Davis) for the money that was stolen from him and eventually destroyed in the shootout. Veronica having no friends and fewer options must enact a desperate plan. That desperate plan is, in fact, her late husband’s plans for the next job. A School Union Delegate by trade Veronica is ill-equipped to handle this task. But with the help of the two other widows (Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez), they may be able to pull the last job off.
Widows adapted the film from the BBC Series of the same name from the 90’s has been adroitly transplanted the action to Modern Day Chicago. Co-writers McQueen and Flynn have created a complex fully formed microcosm of 2018 in the Windy City. Sexual politics, Race relations, Police Shootings, Political Corruption, Back Door Dealings, Male Privilege all play out in with the candor and intelligent you come to expect from both McQueen and Flynn. Widows isn’t merely a totem of political ideology prime for stumping. This is the very best kind of pop commercial confection that is better at being a Heist/Crime Thrillers that any most of what the genre has to offer.
The trio of leading performances at the center of Widows is what elevates the movie from great to truly special. Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez all do some of the best work of their respective careers. As the trifecta of Leads, each is given roles that are by design to be archetypal; the angry hard-charging wife, the ditzy sexpot, the concerned mother with children. Through performance, script, direction, and acting these archetypes are given life as we have never seen. Each actress is given moments to breathe life into their roles that would be short shifted in another heist film.
Even the very best crime thrillers minimize women to angelic saviors or demonic sexpots. Widows never pigeonholes its female leads into one of those clichés. Rather Davis, Debicki, and Rodriguez are allowed to give their characters the sort of human characterizations normally found in an affecting drama. The results are brilliant blistering portrayals’ of women under pressure. Make no mistake this isn’t a film about floral bonding between women, it is women forced to work together because they have no choice. Much of the tension of Widows is derived from not just if they can pull off the daring heist but if they can work together long enough to do so.
The women of Widows are supported by a deep roster of acting talent from legends like Neeson, Robert Duvall, and Jacki Weaver to stars like Colin Farrell to great actors like Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry and Carrie Coon. With considerations to all, of whom do impressive work, it’s Cynthia Erivo who steals the show as Belle a babysitter who catches onto the Widows plans. Erivo in her brief appearance shows how she’s quickly becoming a force to reckon with creating a memorable character with just a few scenes and even fewer lines (see her stellar work in Bad Times and the El Royale for further proof of her dynamic talent). Henry and Kaluuya are highly effective as the criminal siblings turned politician and right hand. Their work here is effectively menacing.
Widows is a high wire balancing; part Crime Thriller, part Political Potboiler, filtered through the lens of 2018’s tense social climate. The film isn’t just the best film of 2018 because it has so much to say about America at this moment but because it does so in such a populist commercial package you won’t even notice until it’s over. That is the ultimate power of Widows and why it will linger long after the end of the year.