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Widows plays out like a great novel. It’s a nuanced, complicated look at the politics of Chicago through the eyes of a variety of characters of different backgrounds and walks of life. While at its heart its a thriller, Widows feels like an amalgamation of different “slice of life” stories that intersect throughout a short period where all the lead characters are affected in someway.

Following a disastrous heist that takes the life of veteran robber Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson), local politician Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) threatens Rawling’s widow Veronica (Viola Davis) into pulling off a heist to repay the money her husband stole from Manning. Veronica enlists Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), two other widows of men involved in Harry’s heist, and join forces to pull of the impossible.

It’s a very dense story with many characters entering in unconventional ways, and while there’s enough material in here to take up an entire series, brilliant screenwriter Gillian Flynn does an excellent job at exploring how the characters’ stories intersect. This doesn’t feel like a condensed story, but rather a small chunk, and that’s okay. On top of that, brilliant director Steve McQueen gets us into this world with creative ways of telling his story; there’s an entire implied history to this world that is fascinating.

The film’s ensemble is also just flat out phenomenal. The three main leads, Davis, Rodriguez, and Debicki, are all terrific at convincing us why they need to take part in the heist; I was particularly taken by Debicki’s character and her methods of copping after her husband’s death. The political race between Brian Tyree Henry and Collin Farrell is also fraught with drama, and I loved seeing how these two shady characters play into the heist and how their campaign efforts develop. There’s also a pair of terrific side roles in the form of a thoroughly nasty Robert Duvall as Farrell’s father and Daniel Kaluyya as Brian Tyree Henry’s silent, terrifying brother and personal hitman.

Widows relishes in its ambiguity; while not everything is resolved, the movie is clear to indicate that its events are merely the product of an existing political and social system, and I love that this feels like an “in the moment” snapshot with events and histories that will continue to play out. It’s also entertaining as hell, with the drive of a thriller mixed in with wonderful character beats and appropriate humor. A pure cinematic delight. Grade: A