Viola Davis leads the cast in Steve Mcqueen’s latest movie Widows, which hits cinemas this week. Find out why we give it Àve stars.
AFTER SUCH IMPOSING movies as Hunger, Shame and 12 Years a Slave – those titles are punishing enough – you’d be forgiven for assuming British director Steve Mcqueen had a mean streak, if not toward his audiences, then his actors. Now comes Widows, which also has its fair share of suffering, mainly on the haunted face of Viola Davis. But Mcqueen has discovered something new. Should we call it fun? Let’s not get carried away. Still, Widows, a supercharged Chicago-set caper of consummate skill, zooms along in a way that feels peppier than usual, Mcqueen brewing the action and ominous municipal intrigue like he was trying to outdo The Fugitive. He comes frighteningly close.
Three women dominate the Àlm, delivering it to a poise that Ocean’s 8, a high-collared pretender, can only dream of. They’re all the recent widows of a freshly deceased gang of high-stakes criminals, men who barely get any screen time. In their absence, Veronica (Davis) Áoats around her white-walled penthouse like a ghost, Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) gets her thrift store sold from under her, and Alice, a blonde trophy wife (Elizabeth Debicki, running away with the movie via skittish fragility and, later, pure nerve), is urged by her own mother to explore a darker career path. As if economic freefall and grief weren’t enough, their husbands’ unànished business shows up on their doorsteps, demanding payment or else. To watch them coalesce into a hard-nosed crew of heisters is the year’s most purely pleasurable piece of transformation. Mcqueen, adapting a 1983 British TV miniseries with Gone Girl screenwriter Gillian Flynn, peppers the Áow with spikiness, mainly involving a vicious, unpredictable enforcer (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya) and – this being Chicago – the stench of dynastic political corruption, embodied by Colin Farrell’s up-and-coming alderman. It’s a lot of plot for one sitting, but Widows will remind you of how massively entertaining crime movies can be, especially when they’re animated by cool-headed capability, on and offscreen. Joshua Rothkopf