Widows marks the long-awaited return of director Steve McQueen, after a five year hiatus from the big screen since 2013’s Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave. The wait has been worth it, as with Widows McQueen delivers a tense, intricate dissection of modern Chicago and the fates of four women trapped within it.
The film spends much of its runtime setting its scene, and to great effect. Flynn and McQueen both have much to say on their chosen setting. The film paints Chicago vividly, from top to bottom. Spending as much time in high-class hotels, campaign headquarters and used car auctions as it does in the frayed psyches of Veronica (Viola Davis) and her titular crew of widows. As such, by the time the wheels start turning on the film’s central heist we’re well-acquainted with the full swathe of personal and cultural circumstances of its four reluctant perpetrators.
It’s almost unsurprising at this point just how good Davis is. Davis fills her character to the edges with brittle determination. Allowing herself little time to grieve, and making the most of the few moments in which she does. Davis is flanked by some career-best performances from Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo (similarly phenomenal earlier this year in Bad Times at the El Royale). Each gives a worn vision of womanhood and its burdens across the spectrum of race and income. The film has no shortage of villains, meanwhile: from Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell’s racist, nepotistic father-son duo to Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry’s terrifying Manning brothers – each with their sights set firmly on the city’s governorship. Their political war is the unsteady terrain which Veronica must manoeuvre across; a treacherous web of male ambition.
Veronica’s journey deviates little from the 1983 TV series which Gillian Flynn’s screenplay adapts, following its titular bereaved trio as they scramble to rid themselves of their bank-robber husbands’ mess, planning a heist of their own to do so. McQueen takes little time dispatching this original gang of husbands (Liam Neeson, John Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo; a cast most other heist thrillers would die for), who each linger on in the tears, bruises and ongoing peril of their spouses.
The widows’ heist, when it finally arrives, is a vicious, nerve-shredding ordeal. This isn’t the sleek, playful capers of the Oceans franchise. Instead it’s rushed, clumsy, and a bad time all-round. There are no punch-the-air moments, just a slight dip in the underlying anxiety.
‘Widows’ is playing at the Glasgow Film Theatre from the 7th to the 22nd of November. Tickets can be found here.
The GFT also offers a free 15-25 membership card. Information on this can be found here.