VOD film review: Widows
Ivan Radford | On 24, Mar 2019
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Cynthia Erivo, Michelle Rodriguez
Watch Widows online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“Why are we doing it?” “Because they don’t think we have the balls to pull it off.” That’s Viola Davis as Veronica Rawlings in Widows, a thriller that sees four women shrug off that label with an empowering determination. They’re made widows by the death of their spouses in a heist gone wrong, and it’s that incident that opens the film – a gripping, brutal set piece that sets the tone for the whole piece.
Steve McQueen commands the action with all the impeccable composition and precise pacing you’d expect from the helmer of Hunger and Shame; a tracking shot back through a van mid-shootout is powerfully deployed. But it’s more than just visuals that mark his out as a McQueen joint: he builds upon the film’s subject matter to create a thriller powered by the imbalance of it, deftly weaving the defiant work of the women into a wider narrative that also encompasses a mayoral race in Chicago’s South Side ward. That’s contended by Jack Mulligan (a superb Colin Farrell), the son of incumbent Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall), and Jamal Manning (the always-excellent Brian Tyree Henry), from whom Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) stole $2 million. That dirty cash is needed to fund Jamal’s campaign, even as he’s trying to go straight and make legitimate, above-board change in society.
The gulf that he’s trying to cross is summed up in a jaw-dropping single take, which sees a vehicle drive from the poor side of town to the wealthier, white neighbourhoods – an unbroken but jarring transition that McQueen’s camera observes with an understated, but unblinking, stare. That mix of sharp set pieces and social awareness turns what might have been Ocean’s Eight into a compellingly complex crime drama; McQueen and Gillian Flynn’s script tackles nepotism, privileged politicians, corrupt officials and the pull between those looking to rebalance control and representation by legal and illegal means.
Daniel Kaluuya steals scenes as Jamal’s violent brother, Jatemme, but this is undisputedly a ladies’ show, and Davis struts through the spotlight with unrelenting confidence, supported by the excellent, sympathetic Michelle Rodriguez, the tough, no-nonsense Belle (a starmaking turn from Cynthia Erivo) and the resilient, sincere Alice (MVP Elizabeth Debicki). They make this genre piece a real heist flick, grounding the thrills with high stakes, huge emotional impact and serious heft. The fact that they come with an adorable dog sidekick is a bonus.
Widows is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.