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"Widows" is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.Written by
Twentieth Century Fox
Steve McQueen, the Academy Award winning filmmaker behind '12 Years a Slave,' directed the hell out of this movie. Since 'Widows' is a heist flick, some may view this directing choice for McQueen as a step down from the power and pervasiveness of his most recent film. But that's not the case. With the way McQueen moves the camera and frames his shots, he displays a wizardry of creativity and a mastery of his craft. He shows us that no genre of film is taking step down if it's handled correctly.
Within the opening moments of this elevated thriller, it's evident that we're witnessing something made by a true pro. Crucial plot points are unveiled via dialogue-free or dialogue-light scenes that allow the actors room to convey story in other ways. There's a couple lying together, clearly deeply in love. There's woman with a black eye swatting away the hand of a consoling husband. There's a man trying unconvincingly to assure his wife that he has their store's finances under control. These rich backstories and fully formed characters reveal themselves in abrupt scenes but somehow never feel rushed. These scenes tell us so much by saying so little.
After introducing these soon-to-be widows and their soon-to-be late husbands, we watch a flashback of the violence and destruction that led to their deaths. The husbands were criminals, and they stole a lot of money from a lot of bad people. Now Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), who happens to be one of those bad people and who happens to be a running for political office, wants his money back. He and his enforcer brother (Daniel Kaluuya, perfectly chilling in a way that's not at all over-the-top) make it clear that the widows have only a few days to pay two million dollars, or they will suffer the same fate as their husbands.
Veronica (Viola Davis), the widow of the criminal group's leader steps up as the leader of these blindsided woman and shares her husband's notebook, which contains the plans for a job that will land them five million dollars. Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) agree to join, but the fourth widow doesn't show up to the meeting for some unclear reason.
It's Davis' show, and the film would struggle without her flawless performance. She's the glue or the straw or the foundation or something. She's essential-that much is certain. But she's far from the only standout. Kaluuya is stellar, as always, and Debicki as well as rising star Cynthia Erivo jump off the screen. McQueen certainly knows how to make actors pop. Credit him as well as each performer.
In addition to the thrilling action and interpersonal drama, there is also a healthy dose of social commentary. It's delivered with just the right degree of subtlety. It's never too overt of condescending, but it's noticeable if you want to pay it attention.
This movie has a lot going for it. Call it an elevated heist. Call dramatic thriller. Call it whatever you want. By any classification, this is a brilliant film and one that deserves plenty of consideration come award season.
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