October 29, 2020

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Widows Review: Not your heist Thriller!

‘Widows’ quickly became one of the my most anticipated films of the latter half of 2018. It is hard to go wrong with such a sterling cast, most with great performances under their belt. Having Steve McQueen, of ’12 Years a Slave’ (not everybody liked that film, highly appreciated it personally) fame, directing and ‘Gone Girl’ (love both book and film) author Gillian Flynn penning the script also promised a lot, as well as some great ideas.

On the most part, ‘Widows’ was a very good film and of the five films seen in the cinema in the past week (the others being ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’, ‘The Grinch’, ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ and ‘Robin Hood’) it was by far the best of the five. Not for everybody, with a measured pace and a lot going on subplots and character–wise, but for me it kept me engrossed right from its violent and hard-hitting opening sequence. At the same time, ‘Widows’ disappointed slightly, because it was capable of greatness. Most of it actually was great and it very nearly became one of my favourite films of the year, even though not perfect it still is in the better half with that being said, just a few things brought it down.

Its biggest fault was the final 25-30 minutes, which actually strictly speaking should have been the most exciting part of the film. Instead this portion of the film felt very rushed, strained credibility, was reliant on too convenient coincidences and ended too patly with things left in the air. The resolution of the big twist, which won’t be spoiled, was particularly underwhelming.

That to me was pretty much the only majorly wrong thing, though also thought the sparsely used (a good choice actually) music was pretty forgettable and the political subplot was not as compelling or as meaty as the others, somewhat undercooked.

However, it is remarkable that ‘Widows’ had as many characters, subplots and themes as it did and it still managed to be as engrossing as it was. Although others will disagree, with there being complaints of incoherence and trying to do too much (didn’t find that personally, and the latter has been a recurring issue in some films seen recently), ‘Widows’ didn’t feel over-stuffed and it wasn’t confusing to me. While deliberate, the pace didn’t feel that slow, because the meaty character writing in very much a character-driven film and how adeptly a vast majority of the subplots were done were so well done. Also the length did not bother me, at just over two hours, compared to quite a number of films that actually is not that long, so the overlong complaint is puzzling. There was some good suspense and a few nice unexpected twists. The dialogue is tight and really crackles in the best moments, also provoking much thought and having a lot to say about its heavy and relevant themes (like the connection between money and power) done insightfully and without preaching.

McQueen’s direction is very much bravura in quality, not as brutal as in ’12 Years a Slave’ (which is a different film), though there are brutal moments, but it is every bit as honest and punchy. The production values, particularly the photography, are slick and stylish, with many audacious touches like the car-bonnet mounted shot.

As far as the acting goes, that is one of the areas where ‘Widows’ most excels, containing some of the best ensemble acting of the year. Viola Davis’ powerhouse performance, intense yet soulful, is the one that dominates but there are particularly superb performances from Elizabeth Debicki, one to watch, and Daniel Kaluuya at his most chilling. Brian Tyree Henry also sports creepy moments. Colin Farrell gives one of his best performances since ‘In Bruges’, Liam Neeson is charismatic in his relatively short screen time and Robert Duvall is great value. The biggest surprise here was McQueen getting a good performance out of Michelle Rodriguez, shying away from her trademark tough girl image and who has never been better. Loved the dog too.

Summarising, very good and nearly great, it would have been the latter if the last half an hour or so was as good as the rest of the film and wasn’t a let down. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

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