Directed by: Steve McQueen | 130 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Coburn Goss, Michelle Rodriguez, Alejandro Verdin, Bailey Rhyse Walters, Elizabeth Debicki, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Molly Kunz, James Vincent Meredith , Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Eric C. Lymch, Michael Harney
Nothing is as nice as a nice heist film in time. However, it becomes surprising when Steve McQueen, known for beautiful art house favorites like “Shame” and “Hunger” and Oscar winner “12 Years A Slave”, ventures into this genre. And no, Vin Diesel, George Clooney and The Rock happily stay at home this time, it’s the turn of the power women. Does this mainly result in a film in which the gender swap mainly serves as a fun but unsurprising gimmick, as previously in a film such as “Ocean’s 8”, or is McQueen simply too much of an artist for that? To ask the question is to answer it.
Anyone who saw the posters or trailer for “Widows” must have looked up in a moment of intimidation. As if Steve McQueen was walking around Hollywood with a magnet to gather some Oscar winners around him, then looked for some more proven talent, and to top it all off, hired Gillian Flynn as co-screenwriter, previously responsible for the cast-iron ‘Gone Girl’ . Can of course also be potentially dangerous: too many well-known headlines do not automatically produce a strong film.
Basically, “Widows” follows a fairly straightforward storyline: veteran robber Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) and his crew see a robbery fail miserably, resulting in a deadly confrontation with the police. Result: four mourning widows. Complication: the loot of more than two million dollars that goes to the grave. Harry’s wife Veronica (Viola Davis in her now almost usual Oscar form) is then confronted with her husband’s estate when the robbed party comes to get a story. Whether she wants to pay back the two million within a month.
In icy, hypothermic panic, she then makes contact with two of the other widows: Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), after which they must jointly use their creativity to commit a robbery themselves. Parallel to their storyline, we follow the electoral battle between Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) and Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), as the latter grapples with the shadow of his overbearing, all-powerful father (Robert Duvall). The rest of the cast includes Carrie Coon, Jacki Weaver and a convincingly terrifying Daniel Kaluuya.
One of Steve McQueen’s main goals with “Widows” was to reach a larger audience, which seems a more realistic possibility with this genre and cast than with his previous work. And yet it is questionable whether ‘Widows’ will be popular with the popcorn audience, because the action in the film is kept to a remarkable minimum, although McQueen shows in the stunningly shot opening scene that he is also more than excellent with action scenes. can. McQueen focuses his camera in “Widows” much more on the psychological development and backgrounds of the characters. For example, the film clearly shows that all female characters were in a sense tormented by their partners: Veronica by trauma, Linda by her husband’s unstoppable gambling addiction and Alice by a man with loose hands. In essence, “Widows” is therefore much more than a gender swap heist film. The film can be read much more as a feminist-psychological thriller, in which the heist elements mainly serve to propel the plot.
With such a potpourri of themes, as a director you have to watch out for the balance, but fortunately McQueen knows how to dose most of the dramatic entanglements (including some insidious twists) excellently, with Viola Davis as insanely strong super glue. While watching the film, the question sometimes arises whether this film could not have worked even better as a mini-series, because some characters remain somewhat underexposed. “Widows” is therefore a rare example of a film that could have gone on for several hours, not least because of the stunning visual style of McQueen and the strong acting performances.
In short, “Widows” is much more than your thirteen-in-a-dozen popcorn heist. The strength of the film lies mainly in the emotional development of the characters, carried by an actor’s ensemble to be frightened. Those who expect a ready-made action thriller will be disappointed, the audience that expects a little more than pief-paf-poof will be eagerly sought after. Steve McQueen is simply too strong as a filmmaker to produce just a “simple film”.