30th Nov2018

‘Widows’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Coburn Goss, Alejandro Verdin, Bailey Rhyse Walters, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Molly Kunz | Written by Steve McQueen, Gillian Flynn | Directed by Steve McQueen

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Steve McQueen is four for four in terms of cinematic masterpieces after Hunger, Shame, 12 Years A Slave and now, thanks to his latest directorial effort and stunning turn in Widows, cements himself as a master at his craft. Adapted from the British mini-series of the same name with the help of Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and relocated to the United States in Chicago offering a far more relevant social commentary and far-reaching dramatic thriller that haunts and dispenses an impactful poignancy that sends shivers down to the spine.

Widows was somewhat of a surprising venture for Steve McQueen. A departure of sorts into a mainstream heist thriller that came as a shock after his highly critically acclaimed string of haunting dramas that deal with damaged subjects, nightmarish situations of human-induced atrocities. Specifically coming off the Academy Award-winning haunting drama in 12 Years A Slave. An incredibly intimidating prospect to behold, both as an audience member but for the man himself as a director, to touch a deeply disturbing and much needed to be discussed topic. It may be slightly shocking to suggest that the prospect of adapting Widows may propose a bigger technical audacity and creative genius to tap into the mainstream palpation of filmmaking that is of yet McQueen’s biggest challenge on all fronts. Of which he succeeds in a manner far beyond the expectations of a director out of their comfort zone.

This is Steve McQueen 2.0., if you will. Stripped down and reconstructed to become a different filmmaker entirely. The thematic passion, fiery intensity and socially conscious remnants from his filmography are here in high doses, as is the now infamously outrageous cinematography, albeit slightly modified to be suitable for its genre. The photography by frequent collaborator Sean Bobbitt for one is a combination of the intense close-ups of Shame and the stunning establishing and medium shots of 12 Years A Slave. Yet, nothing feels formal or pompous. Granted, there are moments of Bobbit and McQueen expressing their artistic background through elegant and artistic moments of cinematography but everything feels raw and grounded conceptually for such a film of Widows calibre and contextually to express the culture dissidence between the class and ethnic imbalance of Chicago via mise-en-scene.

The weight and the power of Widows lie within the compelling nature of its social commentary on the ethnic exploration of oppression in modern America. Spurred on with the performances that drive the piece to an almost new found subversion of an often poorly and muted genre, which is often saturated with male ego. The twist of sorts in McQueen’s film is the juxtaposition to the male characters/thieves in glory and the wives left at home to rot away with resulting fallout that is both never seen nor explored. Reversing the convention to explore the very fallout and emotional turbulence that is summoned at these women’s doors via the ego or indulgence of the man.

The ideals of female empowerment are at the forefront. The embodiment and prowess of the female form in the midst of emotional and physical crisis is captivating, out of both curiosity to see such a film exist and the intoxicating predicament this story finds itself evolving into. Viola Davis could play God and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. The magnificence of her ability is second to none. The sheer audacity and range Davis holds is unparalleled and her reputation proceeds in a role that explores a tremendously tough and complex relationship with her family and within herself. The latter an incredibly powerful arc that ruptures and examines themes of womanhood and loyalty.

Colin Farrell and Michele Rodriguez also impress, both terrific in their respective roles which is a testament to the screenplay by Flynn and the allowance to evolve as actors by McQueen. Far too long have both actors been relegated to a string of financially successful films but the critical element has been missing and often gone unnoticed on both performers. However, the level of work thrown their way will be in the masses with a range of genre. Rodriguez, especially with an opportunity to create a performance that hasn’t been afforded to her throughout a career and to see such an actor hit the floor running, stealing every scene she is in, is a testament to her ability and patience.

Widows is in cinemas now.

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