The mark of a true filmmaker is their ability to adapt their own style to any genre and make it something special. Steve McQueen is proving he is fully capable of this as he jumps from a prison biopic with Hunger to a historically accurate portrayal of American slavery with 12 Years a Slave with several projects in between. Now with his latest, Widows, he’s delving more into the thriller territory with one of 2018’s best films.
To the Hollyweird execs that just can’t help themselves and meddle in things they do not understand; this is the kind of “genderbending” we want to see. When you try to force it like Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 you forget where the focus should be, on the story, and instead try to make some politically correct sham of a film where story was lost for empty, half-hearted gestures. Gestures like making the men’s roles women’s because… It’s not the women part that most have a problem with it’s the forced interest you’re trying to make everyone have for a movie that just doesn’t look good. And whoever decides they don’t like said movie is immediately a sexist. No, we just don’t like shit movies, female cast or not.
Widows is an instance where story dictates and the characters and their arcs change organically according to their suddenly altered environments. A group of professional thieves find themselves at the bad end of several weapons with nowhere to go but dead. Despite their deaths a debt is owed after the money they stole went up in flames and the gangsters they lifted it from come calling to the widows left behind. If losing their husbands wasn’t tragic enough, without warning four distraught women must face the transgressions of their less than forthright husbands who damned them all by robbing the wrong kind of people. With no choice that doesn’t make them nauseous they decide to take fate into their own hands and steal the money to pay for the right to live again. They didn’t ask for this but by god they are going to see it through at all costs.
Written in part by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and McQueen together they have constructed a fully aware story that knows when to hurry and when to pace itself. At times the story can feel prolonged but every moment is a buildup to a singular moment that will change the lives of many whether they want it to or not. Every conversation feels like a hint of what’s to come and it never feels okay. The unease mounts as does the tension with so many plates spinning. A group of women in a situation they never thought they would find themselves are progressing toward a moment that will determine if they see the sunrise or the bottom of a shallow grave. What motivates them is this illusion that their fates are not their own but are in the hands of men who have never been denied power. To put it frankly, this pisses the newly widowed women off and sends them down the path of newly professional thieves with a serious axe to grind.
Their motivations make sense, their reasoning to go for something so dangerous makes sense. To take over where a group of men once were feels honest and earned and this is where Widows earns its place as a genuine thriller but more than this it’s a thriller with something to say. It faces the inadequacies of local American politics where the message and the people get lost in bitter battles of small men with small minds thinking the world owes them something. It confronts the illegitimate dealings that take place for power to be retained or attained no matter the sacrifices to public interests. In the midst of all the political turmoil a group of women face those back dealings with glocks in hand and a hatred for the status quo embedded deep within their souls.
While it can at times take a second to catch its breath, when the shit hits the collective fan things really begin to explode in scenes of pure brutality and a deliberate indifference to the violence that leaves us wondering if it was all worth the bloodshed. At the end of the day what has really changed and did it change for the better? As a rather hopeless story that idea of change for the better is a bit too fairytale to be real. There are such things as caveats however for something that resembles better but is not exactly resolved. Be thankful for your lives, now walk away is the general idea.
From the steady, confident hands of McQueen he steers a ship of brilliant thriller cinema that features stellar performances from the cast. Viola Davis plays a woman who won’t accept her position between a rock and a hard place and rather than lying down to die she chooses action, she chooses to blow up the fucking rock. In a short period of time she must come to terms with the loss of her true love and the predicament he has left her in, intentionally or not. She must navigate the world he kept hidden from her where his secrets still lie waiting to be uncovered to eventually reveal that her husband may not have been the man she believed him to be. Following her in this doomed scenario is Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki who find their shared interests too much to ignore.
Everything they are fighting for are the very reasons they shouldn’t do what they are dead set on carrying out. The inner turmoil of each woman is a fascinating look into loss and anger in equal measure and the performances undoubtedly match up to such a lofty undertaking. From the lost men, both figuratively and literally to the women righting the wrongs of those they loved to a serious fault, Widows is a thriller to aspire to create and of course to witness.
Rated R For: violence, language throughout, and some sexual content/nudity
Runtime: 129 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Carrie Coon, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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