Directed by: Steve McQueen
Runtime: 129 minutes
After an impressive roster of credits, director Steve McQueen has been on my must-watch list for a while. From the confronting single-takes in Hunger to the incredible character piece 12 Years a Slave, McQueen has always had a distinctive directorial flair that interested me greatly. When I saw the trailer for Widows, I saw his name flash in large white text and instantly decided that I was going to watch it as soon as I was able. I have been disappointed by films like these many times, but with Widows, I was left completely satisfied after my viewing.
Widows follows a group of women who were left, well, widowed by their respective husbands being caught in a heist-gone-wrong. Meanwhile, an important election is about to take place, with crime boss Jamal Manning and legacy-child Jack Mulligan in a political battle to take out the position of alderman in a precinct of Chicago. The screenplay, originally penned by Lynda LaPlante for a 1980s television series, was adapted to the big screen by McQueen himself and Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame. With so much talent behind the script, it is no surprise that the plot is tightly-written; every thread of the plot is woven together with absolute precision, and as a result, every twist and turn presented to us avoids feeling cheap, and instead feels well-earned.
The plot alone would have made for good popcorn-viewing, but McQueen adds an extra layer of gravitas to the film. We are presented with unflinching commentary of black-on-black violence alongside white privilege and are given an in-depth examination of many issues facing females who, after being comfortable with a man’s steady paycheck, are left fending for themselves. Every character in the film seems like a fully fleshed-out person; no one is left as an empty vehicle to carry the plot. These characters are brought to life by an ensemble cast of extremely talented performers, with the likes of Viola Davis, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Cynthia Erivo, and Michelle Rodriguez all bringing their A-game here.
However, among the star-studded cast, some stand-out (relative) newcomers steal the show. Elizabeth Debicki, playing Alice—a girl who was raised by her mother (Jacki Weaver) to believe that women must rely on the male paycheck in order to afford a comfortable lifestyle—gives an incredible performance that balances a certain naivety with a soft strength, making her scenes some of the most engaging of our protagonists. On the other side of the spectrum, Daniel Kaluuya plays the deliciously evil Jatemme Manning, whose genuinely frightening performance will stick in my mind for a while.
This film may begin a little slow for some (there are a lot of shots of Viola Davis slowly waking up in an all-white room), but I think any missteps in pacing will be easily forgiven after the excellently executed final act. Widows is like a cinematic Lamborghini. It is well-made, runs smoothly, and has been designed so well, you feel more esteemed after coming into contact with it. I, for one, am happy this film did not disappoint, as I do not have to strike Steve McQueen off my ever increasing must-watch list.