Widows begins with the post-mortem mayhem of a Reservoir Dogs-style heist gone horribly wrong. Desperate men scream over the sound of sirens, their bodies soaked in blood and sweat. After this scene, however, the movie goes in an interesting direction: It’s the aftermath of the aftermath, where a group of shell-shocked widows sift through the smoking detritus of their lives and grapple with where to go next. An engrossing drama mixed with a tightly-wound thriller, Widows is a strong, well-acted film.
In that opening scene, Harry (Liam Neeson) and his veteran crew of rugged thieves make a ragged retreat from a botched robbery. Director Steve McQueen intersperses this frantic action with a few flashbacks of the women and children these men leave behind. The wives watch with quiet exasperation, knowing that each job could be the last–and this time it is. Veronica (Viola Davis) responds to her husband’s death with a primal scream, before setting about to put Harry’s affairs in order. He bequeathes her one last score, to settle his debts and wriggle from under the thumb of a local kingpin. Veronica rallies the other widows (Michelle Rodriquez and Elizabeth Debicki) onto the offensive, hoping to impart her fierce self-determination onto them and give them all the strength to move on with their lives.
A movie like this is completely reliant on its lead performers, and Viola Davis doesn’t disappoint. Her Veronica is a magnetic presence who supplies the story with much of its dramatic power. Colin Farrell plays insouciant charm better than most actors, and his glib turn as a political heir apparent makes him easy to hate. And Robert Duval, as Farrell’s doddering father, elevates every movie he’s in. But, in a film loaded with detestable people, Daniel Kaluuya is a revelation as the gleefully sadistic mob enforcer. Really, the entire cast is uniformly outstanding.
If Widows has a small flaw, it’s that the plot gets heavy in the second half. This is a long film that traces a long, winding road to get to its inevitable conclusion. That said, the script crackles with sharp dialogue, and the actors clearly enjoy their richly drawn characters. Most thrillers are built on frantic individuals who must make life and death decisions in a blink. Widows dwells on the people who endure the consequences to those actions and have an expanse of time to grieve and rebuild. This is a fascinating film, meticulously made by a top-notch cast and crew.