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MOVIES: (LFF 2018) - Widows - Review

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Gillian Flynn is having an excellent year. First, HBO’s Sharp Objects, adapted from her work, allowed Amy Adams to shine and earned herself a surefire bet for an Emmy nomination at the very least in the process. Now, she’s the screenwriter behind 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen’s Widows, which brings together one of the most talented ensemble casts of the year.

Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Synthia Erivo, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and Carrie Coon are just some of the names that Widows brings to the table, restricting Jon Bernthal to a mere cameo. It doesn't shy away from putting big-name stars in small, brief roles, allowing the attention to focus on the four principal players of the game to great results. Picking up after a heist has gone badly wrong, McQueen’s film follows four women with nothing in common but a debt incurred by their husbands, who were career criminals. They have a month to pay back the debt initially, which drops to a week as the plot rapidly escalates.

The tension is ever present in Widows, and Steve McQueen knows how to add to the drama making the most out of Flynn’s script. Flynn is a master of suspense herself, and this writer and director combination seems like a match made in heaven. The heist sequences are brutal and especially when watched on a large screen, it only serves as a way to add to the tension. The cuts back and forth between the quieter moments of the present day and the initial aftermath of the robbery at the start of the film were quick and brutal, especially when it plays out like Reservoir Dogs where we never see what came before, only its bloody, ruthless ending.

Every actor involved puts in a top-tier performance. Viola Davis brings a commanding presence to the table, delivering a tour-de-force that should, again, be deserving of some awards recognition. Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo play the rest of the Widows very well, and enough character development is given to them so that they make a memorable impression, and nobody can feel shortchanged. Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry also have roles as competing politicians that both have key parts in the plot beyond just a distraction from the main event. It’s hard not to escape the political undertones that Widows has to its script, but the film does so in a smart and subtle way that makes the most out of the talented actors that the film has at its disposal.

The film feels more than just a traditional heist movie, injecting elements of corruption, both political and not, into it combining multiple narratives in a way that echoes films by Robert Altman by way of Michael Mann with its cynical, thoughtful approach. It contains all the elements to make an exciting thriller especially when you balance it with just how entertaining the heist elements of it are, containing plenty of twists and turns that will surprise even the most veteran of heist movie fans.

It’s also worth briefly mentioning the film’s black humour. There are a few moments of comedy that land really well, but they don’t make Widows any less of a serious experience because of it. It’s intense. It’s enjoyable. It’s got all the ingredients of a perfect heist thriller and as a result it’s easy to say that it emerges as a clear highlight not just from the London Film Festival so far but also from the entire year. This is likely going to be a movie that will be talked about in consideration with the Oscars this year in multiple categories, so yes, that means it is absolutely unmissable, and Steve McQueen has done it again.

Widows is released theatrically in the UK on November 6, 2018 and in the USA on November 16.

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