They don't make 'em like Widows anymore - no... seriously. This is an adult action drama starring a massive cast of hyper talented actors shot by one of our finest artists that takes everything, from the genre aspects to the very real toll that the genre aspects take on the humans trapped inside of it, seriously - did they ever make movies like this? Sure yes back in the 1970s, but those movies didn't star women, they sure didn't star a cast mainly compromised of people of color, and Widows wows on all fronts. Technically audacious, thrilling, an emotional wringer. You'll be covered in bruises by the time this movie's done with you - your brain from being jostled around, and your fingers from digging into whoever or whatever is sitting closest by.
Viola Davis is front and center as Veronica, an unreal housewife to an elite criminal (Liam Neeson) living in a two-tone castle in the skies of Chicago - she says she's got a gig with the Teacher's Union but for all intents and purposes as this movie plays out that's just for show. Veronica's a fascinating character, never quite what she seems - since she's played by Viola Davis and is the lead we expect certain things, but Davis and director Steve McQueen seem intent on swatting away those expectations and leaving Veronica's culpability, her morality, in serious question. She is a terrifically complicated figure, and that's before she starts strutting around in power suits with a dog just this side of Blofeld's pussycat in her arms.
Nothing is simple or easy, and that's how heist thrillers oughta be - McQueen & Co dig deep into the meat of that, not just by adhering to Murphy's golden rule of eventual snafus, but by obscuring people's intentions, fogging up our mirrors in. Veronica is, for most of the movie, a woman grieving, but her reasons for being closed-off run deeper, and McQueen manages to pack a wallop or ten as he unfurls everybody's extraordinary damages.
And that extends to the supporting cast and then some, a crew of And Then Somes if ever there was - best in show is all thirty yellow-blond feet of Elizabeth Debicki, strapped into a Russian Hooker dress like a spangled explosive aimed at the further reaches of outer space, set to Boom. For those of us who've been waiting for Debicki to get to shine like we know she can (I saw her steal the stage right out from under Isabelle Huppert and Cate Blanchett once, so) this is a fine introduction to what she's capable of. She quakes under that effortlessly perfect skin of hers, injecting real danger, emotionally speaking, into every scene.
That danger flows from every corner. You already know not to trust when Colin Farrell slips into a business suit or when Jacki Weaver teases her hair up, but it's Daniel Kaluuya in particular who rains terror down with his every terrifyingly flat glance - his sociopathic smiles stretch across the movie like a symphony of suppressed, half-swallowed shrieks, a low drumming hum of menace haunting every shadow and street. He is a chill when you're alone at night - he's a Halloween Costume come to life.
But he is, in the end, as human as anybody in this whip-smart full-throated bludgeon of old-school movie-making. There are moments in the last act where people act perhaps too dumb for their own good, but once the blood's rushed out of their heads to other places, once the blood's pooling on the floors and we're all white-knuckling it towards hellfire, who wouldn't? The final resting places where McQueen & screenwriter Gillian Flynn start to lean hard into genre convention, tossing together all of their well-structured toys into a broken heap, they feel fine after a couple days letting them rest, once you sort out it's all after all a movie, and what a movie it all is.