By Steven Sheehan.
A few years on from picking up an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, director Steve McQueen shifts gears into something completely different.
Those with good memories may notice Widows is an adaptation of Lynda La Plante’s 80s ITV miniseries. There was also a Widows 2, but don’t bank on there being the same here.
Working with Gone Girl author and screenplay writer Gillian Flynn, Widows is a heist film wrapped in a dense social and political narrative.
Ocean’s Eight this is not, although it does boast a similarly star-studded cast.
At the centre of the film is Viola Davis as Veronica Rawlings. We see her criminal husband Harry (Liam Neeson) killed along with his crew at the start of the film, making Veronica the first of four widows revealed to us.
She is put under pressure to repay $2million Harry owed to local criminal/political figure Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry). She has 30 days to find the money or his brother Jatemme (a terrifying Daniel Kaliuya) will come after her.
Veronica is in possession of Harry’s detailed plans of a robbery he was planning. She knows carrying out the heist could be the only way she finds the money that will save her life.
She convinces the widows of the other men killed alongside Harry to help carry out the heist. Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) need to find a similar way out to start their lives again.
However, they still lack a driver and are joined by Linda’s babysitter Belle (Cynthia Erivo), who is the final piece of the jigsaw.
Running alongside the heist plot is a look at small-scale politics in Chicago. That is seen through prospective alderman Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and his father who held the position for years, Tom (Robert Duvall).
McQueen crosses over these threads to highlight gun crime in Chicago, political lies and corruption and racist police brutality. He paints a world where everyone is on the take and relationships are based on what each person can get from them.
In reality, Widows is a socio-political drama masquerading as a heist film. The best heist movies have fun taking you into the detail and execution of the plan. Here it feels like a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.
As you’d expect with such an illustrious cast, the performances are immaculate. Viola Davis leads the way impeccably and her friendship with Debicki is the probably the best thing in it.
There is a twist midway through that takes some believing and feels a little unnecessary. The story probably could’ve reached a similar point without it even being there.
When walking out of cinemas some audience members might feel a little cheated by Widows. It does what it says on the tin by delivering a heist, but it’s almost as if it becomes an inconvenience.
What McQueen really wants to talk about is everything else but the heist. Whether or not those watching it want the same remains to be seen. There’s no doubting it’s a well-made film but it falls some way short of being a great one.
Widows was released in UK cinemas nationwide Tuesday 6th November.