Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen follows up his 2013 Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave” with another masterpiece contender in “Widows.”
The entire movie, simply enough, can be adequately encapsulated by one scene. Jack Mulligan, a central character to the film played by Colin Farrell, is promoting an organization his father founded as mayor of Chicago. Mulligan uses the organization to publicize his own Chicago election campaign. As Mulligan leaves the event, he is berated by a reporter about his competition catching up to him in the polls. Once Mulligan escapes the reporter’s gnawing inquiries and gets into his car, he releases the pent-up frustration of living in the shadow of his family legacy.
In that one, three minute continuous shot, we hear Mulligan argue with his assistant while they travel from a poor Chicago neighborhood to Mulligan’s mansion. The run-down neighborhood in the periphery suddenly transforms full of trees and perfect houses. In Chicago, these two, separate worlds exists right next to each other.
If you’ve seen the trailer (one of the best of 2018), you may be confused. “Widows” was marketed as a heist movie with an all-star female cast led by academy award winner Viola Davis. The movie begins with contrasting scenes, the wives portrayed in well-lit rooms while the men schemed in a dark setting during the heist. When the robbery goes wrong, the wives become responsible for their deceased husbands’ debts. Throughout the movie, the women slowly move into the world that killed their husbands.
The plot was roughly based on the heist, but a selection of subplots made “Widows” one of the best films of the year. Director Steve McQueen tackled political, social and marriage issues all while refraining from making the film feel overwhelming. The film also benefited from an incredible cast, all of whom brought their A-game.
The film’s central figure is Davis, who plays Veronica Rawlings. She is fierce during every interaction in the movie, but also masterfully performs her character’s fear once isolated. When Veronica’s husband Harry dies, she recruits characters Alice, Linda and Belle to steal the money to cover his debt.
Elizabeth Debicki plays Alice, and will almost certainly get a supporting Oscar nomination. She was fantastic the entire movie, in particular when her character is tasked with acquiring guns for the team.
Bryan Tyree Henry (somehow able to be in five movies and one of the most critically acclaimed TV shows in 2018) plays Jamal Manning, who is competing against Mulligan in the election and forcing Veronica to pay Harry’s debt. Daniel Kaluuya delivers one of the most terrifying villain performances of the last decade — he somehow made turning up the volume on a TV one of the most frightening moments of the film. Robert Duvall plays Tom Mulligan, Jack’s father, and exemplifies how frightening old American politics can be.
“Widows” had a disappointing first weekend at the box office, but will certainly be around for award season. Golden Globe nominations are released next weekend, and Davis, Debicki, Erico and Kaluuya all have great chances at securing nominations.