A 1980s TV series has been updated for hard-hitting drama on the big screen.
Starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya and Colin Farrell. Written and directed by Steve McQueen.
Ido love a good tag-line and Widows really does deliver on that front: “Left with nothing. Capable of anything.” And when we are talking about a script co-written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn and directed by 12 Years a Slave filmmaker Steve McQueen, with the Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis (Fences/Doubt) running point, then capable of anything it is.
The Lynda la Plante ITV series ran in the 1980s to critical acclaim and while that has dated considerably, the brilliant bones of her story and its characters still ring true as McQueen drags their heist tale kicking and screaming into the right here, right now.
This is as much a character study wrapped up in a bold social and political cinematic statement as it is about a robbery. That the heist still drives the narrative forward without becoming drowned in the visceral machinations surrounding it is somewhat miraculous, but not surprising. McQueen is a very singular voice in cinema, and a voice worth hearing.
At the top of this tale we see career criminal Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) lead a violent robbery to an explosive end, leaving three very different women without their men. As the wolves circle, the widows are forced into a very unlikely alliance, with Harry’s wife Veronica (Viola Davis) calling the shots. You might argue that at least two of these women are far better off without their deadbeat blokes, but the joy here is watching them work that out for themselves. This story has so much to say about female empowerment and resilience and it takes its time saying it. In the stillness we see strength grow, a stillness which also serves to magnify the sudden, often brutal, violence.
Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell lead a strong support cast as the Mulligans, a father and son jostling for political power and respect. Running against them for a slice of ground down in Chicago is a different kind of criminal, the Mannings. Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) and Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) can’t buy the power and the votes they need, but they are prepared to kill for them.
Both parties want the same thing the widows want – the pot at the end of the rainbow. Harry had planned one more big job, and they all want in on the action.
The fascinating thing about this film is the residual, very potent aftermath. Days later I am still immersed in their world, still bound in a way to these women and left wanting more.
Don’t go thinking this is the Oceans 8 we all really needed to see, as that does this hugely surprising film an enormous disservice. See Widows for what it really is – a signature slice of cinema with a collective of powerhouse women at its molten core, and they mean business.