After Steve McQueen’s historic Best Picture Oscar win for 12 Years a Slave, McQueen solidified his status as one of the very best directors working today. The win was a gigantic milestone that would seem to enable McQueen to take on any project of his choosing. Instead, he disappeared from the film world for almost five years. Now, director Steve McQueen is back with his most commercial film to date in Widows. For this stylish action-thriller, McQueen has put together a fantastic cast that includes Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall and Michelle Rodriguez. Despite having all the ingredients for a great movie, however, Widows fails to become anything memorable.
At first glance, Widows is a simple, straightforward story. It takes place in Chicago, where a criminal group of four men die in the middle of a heist, taking two million dollars to the grave in the process. Each of the men leaves behind a widow, who are approached by the men their husbands stole from and are forced to repay their debt. Given a one month deadline, the group of widows must band together in order to steal enough money to repay their debts and start their lives over.
The first thing that stands out about this film is how well it is shot. The beginning of the film does a terrific job in introducing almost everyone involved in the story in a quick yet effective scene. The rest of the film continues with wonderful camerawork that turns Widows into a slick and stylish action-thriller that is a beauty to look at. There is a lot of juxtaposition between the poor and the affluent neighborhoods in Chicago that serve to explain certain character’s motivations. It is also a film that is filled with great performances. Daniel Kaluuya is just magnificent as the ruthless villain, Jatemme Manning, and Viola Davis is excellent as the headstrong protagonist, Veronica Rawlings. Elizabeth Debicki also stands out for her surprisingly layered performance as Alice, one of the Widows joining Veronica in the last heist designed by her husband, Harry (Neeson), before his death.
Despite how good the film looks and how great the performances are, Widows still fails to live up to its sky-high potential. The more the story develops, the more plot holes that are shown. There are too many characters that simply show up when it is convenient for the story but that eventually just vanish. The characters also make a lot of downright unjustifiable decisions that no real person would ever make. Sadly, despite its best attempt to be unpredictable, you can see its twists and turns coming from a mile away.
At the end of day, no amount of technical prowess can rescue this film from itself. Widows failed the moment it decided to complicate the story and include unnecessary plot twists. The motivations behind certain characters, specifically that of Harry and why he designed his last heist, just don’t make sense. Daniel Kaluuya’s Jatemme is one of the film’s best characters, until he inexplicably becomes a completely different type of man from what he is originally made out to be. Widows has such a strong start that it is unbelievable to see how messy it becomes. As great as Steve McQueen is, it seems he tried to juggle too many things at once and the result left a lot to be desired.
If there was one word to describe Widows, it would be “frustrating”. It has an intriguing story and a stellar cast led by an incredible director. On the technical side of things, Widows is excellent and among the very best of 2018. I suspect some of the acting performances and the cinematography will garner some awards attention, and it is well-deserved. The most frustrating thing is that it tries so hard to be more than it needs to be, so it loses the audience along the way. Widows’ high points are so high that it makes its low points sting even more. This is by far Steve McQueen’s weakest film, and one of 2018s biggest disappointments.
|RELEASE DATE:||November 16 2018|
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