I wasn’t expecting much from Widows. File under: don’t judge a movie by its trailer. However the cast, particularly Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo —who also lit it up in Bad Times at the El Royale — where stellar. Even Liam Neeson does some acting, in a film where remarkably no one gets kidnapped. There are also strong supporting performances by the incomparable Robert Duvall who brings it as a potitical machine patriarch and Jacki Weaver as Debicki’s mom who does some serious Joan Crawford channeling. The musical score was handled deftly by Hans Zimmer who is to film scoring what Morgan Freeman is to narration.
Widows has an interesting mix of being a heist movie and a love story all in one. And like the best heist movies, it has a certain humanistic gravitas. The theme of living with loss is heavily explored. Chicago politics and crime is constantly on the surface of this story without pulling the characters’ relationships under it. My favorite shot in the movie is an exterior car oner (a single shot, with no editing) where you never see the actors but hear their conversation. The dialouge is about being trapped in a golden cage and in the real time of this drive of about 4 minutes the entire neighborhood changes from poverty to wealth. Widows is no stranger to gory and shockingly violent moments—but it’s not more violent than the This is America music video. Plenty of violence is implied and one murder happens completely off screen as the volume is turned up on a TV set. But the film carries a slow simmering tension throughout which is punctuated by sparks of graphic violence being perpetrated by many of the main characters. No one is absolutely without guilt in this modern take on Robin Hood. The characters are complex and grounded with enough backstory that you care. Widows has the immediacy and realism that Ocean’s 8 could only wish for — Awkwafina aside. The stakes are epic and unlikely but also within the realm of believability given the circumstances of the story.
There are moments where the pacing lagged for me. Moments where actors are staring at themselves in the mirror too long. However these were a mere annoyance in what is a beautifully shot and crafted film. There also happens to be a very good twist in Widows that I won’t reveal to you. Regardless of story, the acting here is the real star. I would recommend Widows on the performance of Viola Davis alone.