Movie Review: Widows
R | 2h 9min
Director: Steve McQueen
by Jason Koenigsberg
Bad news everyone… We all suck. Black people, white people, men, women, old people, young people, Democrats, Republicans, rich and poor alike. We are all self-serving, violent, conniving, and greedy. At least that is the message according to the movie Widows. The long awaited follow up from director Steve McQueen after his Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave (2013), and from a screenplay by Gillian (Gone Girl) Flynn, they team up to make an unconventional (and sometimes conventional) heist movie that has a lot to say about our current state of the union. Most of which is very critical of us as human beings.
But the goods news is the movie is a very tightly wound thriller, brilliantly executed from a technical standpoint and all of the performances are top notch. It does expect the audience to believe some far-fetched circumstances, but so do all heist movies. Widows works because it is edited and acted so superbly throughout its 129 minutes. Director Steve McQueen tries to use the formulaic thriller as a way to throw in political commentary and poignant character studies. For the most part, he succeeds.
The film opens up with a shot of Liam Neeson and Viola Davis lying in bed made up of white sheets, intimately looking at each other, kissing and then like a violent jolt, cuts straight to a dark screen at night with gunshots and explosions as Liam Neeson and his crew of thieves make a getaway. Neeson and Davis play husband and wife and his wife’s world is about to be turned upside down when the criminal acts of her husband come back to her and invade her life. She is not blindly in love, she is aware of how her husband provides, but due to events that unfold, now she needs to take matters into her own hands. She gathers up other women whose husbands were involved with Liam Neeson and since they all are in the same situation needing money (and respect) convinces them to attempt the robbery their husbands were supposed to pull off.
What follows for the next two hours are standard heist thriller cliches but they are done with such urgency that it feels as if every scene matters. There are twists and turns and switches of loyalty that are guaranteed to make the audience gasp, but also make the audience scratch their head questioning the logic of what is on screen. Regardless,Widows is one of the most tightly edited films of 2018 and because of the seriousness of the actors, it works brilliantly as an edge of your seat crime thriller. In the end, everyone is basically out for themselves. There is a political scandal intertwined with the burglary and race relations are front and center in Widows since one of the candidates is white and the other black, but both are corrupt and downright evil, willing to do anything including murder to win their seat.Widows acts as a social commentary about race, politics, and gender roles. It tries to make a difference and partially succeeds. But it works even better as a pulp thriller with nail-biting suspense and white-knuckle action. The movie has a very cynical view of humanity and everyone involved gets their hands dirty (in some cases very dirty) and nobody comes out clean and honorable. The final shot seems to hint at a Windows 2, not sure if that is in the plans of everyone involved but the way Hollywood is operated if Widows is a hit, it is certainly possible.