Widows holds itself out as a female heist movie, somewhat in the vein of Ocean’s 8, but from start to finish it delivers a lot more punches. This is not a fun and fancy-free flick, and it definitely is more intense than the previews lead you to believe, so if you are looking for Ocean’s 8, go see Ocean’s 8. This film is dark, deep and twisty. What it does represent correctly from the outset is that Viola Davis is the baddest B around, and this lead role was made for her. Likewise, the rest of the cast seems to have been picked perfectly and shines in roles seemingly written for them.
The film, set in the Eighth Ward of Chicago, tells the story of a group of women who are forced to take on their husbands’ debt after they die in a heist gone wrong. The debt is owed to an up and coming politician, Jamal Manning, played by Brian Tyree Henry. Henry portrays political villain with an accuracy that is, at times, scary. His brother, who acts as his muscle, is played by the impeccable Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out). Each and every scene he was in I ended up with my eyes closed. He is haunting in this role. He personifies evil and deserves recognition for it.
The other standout, aside from Davis, was Elizabeth Debicki, who played another one of the wives, Alice. She played feeble and fierce all in one and her transformation over the course of the film was a real pleasure to watch. But of course, Viola. Viola. Viola. Viola. Honestly, I am a fair-weather fan. She can turn me off as fast as she can turn me on, but this film: bravo. I’m here for this. She plays a wife, a mother, a leader, a boss- and she does it all with a vulnerability that is relatable.
The plot itself is good enough. It has the twists and turns that a good heist movie should have. It has heroes and villains and moments of levity. If you like Steve McQueen’s other films, then you will recognize layers and themes throughout the film that deep and important to him as a director and writer. The film opens with Viola Davis and Liam Nesson in bed, engaged in a pretty sensual kiss. It’s an intense image and would be of any couple, but I can tell you that people in the theater audibly gasped when it came on screen. McQueen’s choices are deliberate and this image, this film, the heroes and the villains that were written into this film were done so with a purpose.
It’s a strong film. It may have held itself out as a gentler flick, but be prepared for a ride that’s a little more than you bargained for (and everything you didn’t know you wanted).