Viola Davis is a queen among queens.
All weekend I’ve been feeling absolutely horrible. My head is killing me, my throat is sore, and I’d rip my nose off in two seconds if it meant I could stop blowing it. But I’ve been waiting a long time to see Widows (2018) and wasn’t going to let something like congestion stop me. So what did I do? I dragged my sick ass off the couch and annoyed a theatre full of movie goers with my snotty nose to see Viola Davis lead four badass women to pull off a heist. Wouldn’t you do the same?
Helmed by 12 Years a Slave (2013) director Steve McQueen, and co-written by Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl (2014) fame, Widows is based upon the British TV drama of the same name. When her criminal husband and his associates die during a botched robbery, Veronica Rawlings, played by Viola Davis, brings together the men’s grieving and financially-desperate widows to pull off their husband’s next job, a heist worth $5 million.
When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was like, “fuck yes to all of this.” Viola Davis, a mystery steeped in criminal activity, a high-stakes and interesting plot…fuck yes to all of this! Thankfully, I was anything but disappointed. In the first minute and a half alone, the movie perfectly sets up the personal lives of the titular widows while weaving in a heart-pounding scene of their husbands pulling off their fatal robbery. It’s a gripping thrill-ride that expertly juxtaposes where our heroines start and where they end up by the film’s end. It’ll instantly pull you in. Though it does take some time for the lead characters to get together, when they do their chemistry is so natural and entertaining to watch, that you’ll be glued to the screen anxiously waiting to see what they do next. It’s hard not to compare the movie to Ocean’s 8 (2018), another female-led heist movie released this year. While I enjoyed Ocean’s 8 (hello, THE CAST), I felt that too much time was spent on prepping for the heist, and not enough was spent on fleshing out the characters and their motivations. The opposite can be said for Widows as the movie makes sure you get a fully-realized understanding of its characters.
What a group of characters this team is. Obviously you have Viola Davis who as the team leader, is utterly unshakable. It’s only behind closed doors that we’re able to glimpse the fragile, broken-hearted woman she can’t let the others see. As expected, her performance is nothing short of spectacular, proving once again that adding Viola Davis to anything makes it instantly better. Admit it: She was one of the good parts of Suicide Squad (2016). Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki play Linda and Alice respectively, who are exactly the type of characters you want in a heist movie. Linda is the cynical, hardass mother who’s willing to do whatever it takes to support her children, and Alice is the naive yet enthusiastic blonde who’s ready to put an end to people treating her like dirt. Rodriguez and Debicki own these roles and what’s great is that they both enhance the movie in separate but equally entertaining ways. Rodriguez’s performance is grounded and realistic, almost like she’s playing a real woman who turned to crime to provide for her family. On the other end of the spectrum you have Debicki who brings much welcome comedic relief to the drama. Debicki is a delight to watch and her character is so layered and fascinating, that I would have totally been on board if the movie focused on her as the main character. Hers is a standout role and in the future I’ll happily go see movies simply for Debicki.
Speaking of standout roles, when I went to see Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) – which you can check out my review for by clicking here – I was thoroughly impressed by Cynthia Erivo’s scene-stealing performance. When I found out she would be starring in Widows as well, it only increased my excitement for the movie. I’m happy to report that she’s just as amazing. Though she doesn’t get as complicated or interesting a backstory as the widows, as babysitter turned getaway driver Belle, Erivo is basically reduced to being the “cool muscle” of the group, as most of her scenes involve her simply running, jumping, or something else physical. As amazing as her physical prowess is (seriously, LOOK AT HER ARMS), I know the type of magnetism and charm that Erivo is able to bring to a role and I would have loved to get more insight into her character. Erivo is definitely an actress to look out for and if you see that she’s in a movie, trust me, go see it. Now I repeat, LOOK AT HER ARMS! That’s fucking incredible.
This movie is jam-packed with amazing talent. Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall and Jacki Weaver all get their chance to shine and give memorable and powerful performances which are only enhanced by McQueen’s flawless direction. Each character crackles with personality and intrigue, and Weaver even gets a scene that is as comedic as it is haunting. Her scene as Alice’s gold-digging mother is one of the movie’s most enjoyable, which only assures that I’m here for a prequel focusing on Alice and her family. Daniel Kaluuya plays Jatemme Manning, one of the movie’s antagonists, and once again, he knocks it out of the park. Heartless and menacing, Kaluuya proves himself to be just as compelling and powerful when he’s playing the villain as when he’s playing the hero. I don’t know if its a streak of good luck or he’s just a genius at picking roles, but behind Get Out (2017) and Black Panther (2018), this is his third movie in a row that I’ve absolutely loved. He’s quickly becoming one of my favourite dramatic actors.
Filled with stylistic yet simple shots, gorgeous set design, and genuinely jaw-dropping twists (I gasped more than once), Widows is a thrilling and intelligent movie-going experience that demands to be seen on the big screen. I’d especially recommend it if you’re a fan of the work of Christopher Nolan or Martin Scorsese. Widows is the type of movie that 2018 deserves: Four diverse women using their intellect, strength and determination to support themselves and their families. Dear Hollywood: Take all the money you spend on that ridiculous Transformers franchise (2007 – present) and devote it to projects like this. We’d all really appreciate it.
What did you think of Widows? What’s your favourite heist movie?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!