Steve McQeen is back with Widows, his directorial followup to 2013’s Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave. Widows is a crime thriller that follows four women who organise a heist after their now deceased husbands left them in debt due to their criminal activities.
With a runtime of a little over two hours, Widows has plenty of time to spend delving deep into each of the main protagonists’ lives while it slowly builds tension towards a thrilling third act. It adopts a slow pace throughout but a consistent at that. The pacing however didn’t always work for me, that’s in combination with the story and the fact that for a couple of reasons I found it hard to get into. A lot of the time while everything is being set up through Viola Davis‘ character and Daniel Kaluuya‘s character is making moves on the other end I knew what was going on but I didn’t always get exactly why. Some story points are a bit murky and I was a little lost with some details here and there, by the end some of these are clarified but others aren’t. I really just couldn’t get invested in the lives of the led characters played by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki, because while their personal lives are being explored not much progression is being made in the main plot which did bore me. The slow pace isn’t the catalyst for this, nor is it the lack of urgency from the characters it’s a combination of a few story choices that I couldn’t get into.
Although, going into the third act the pace intensifies and the story does go in some interesting directions that did have me thoroughly engaged. This is where the meat of the heist story lies and despite all of the slow gruelling setup there is some decent payoff. If the meat of the story had kicked off a little earlier in the second act or if the film was around 20 minutes shorter I could see it being a tighter and more direct film that I believe would have worked better.
As for the performances though, I bought the desperation of these women in the situations their in because of the great performances across the board. Debicki, Rodriguez, and Cynthia Erivo were good in their respective roles each bringing a different personality to the table and having good chemistry within their team. However, the standout is Viola Davis who had the most interesting character backstory and by far the most involvement in everything going on in the story. She is a masterclass and displays a tonne of emotion so strongly that it gets you on her side whether you are invested in the story or not. Daniel Kaluuya plays a very different role to his more well known presence in Get Out (2017) and I loved him in here. He is the bringer of much of the tension in the first two acts so for a supporting role his importance is great. Colin Farrell also plays a role in this film and he is fine however his Chicago accent did throw me off a little to where I couldn’t take him all too seriously.
In the end, I didn’t love Widows but I also didn’t hate watching it. It did bore me at times through the first two acts but the performances were enough to keep me somewhat engaged through to the third act which I actually enjoyed. There was some great potential within the story but the execution just wasn’t up to par. The presence of Hans Zimmer‘s score, Sean Bobbitt‘s cinematography, and Steve McQueen’s directing all add to the film in subtle stylistic ways but not enough to stand out and really wow me. Widows is overall disappointing but most definitely not near the worst heist thrillers I’ve come across.