TIFF Film Review: ‘Widows’ Is a Bold, Taut Thriller Featuring One of the Year’s Best Ensembles

Fall Festival

2018 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The enigma of trust and loyalty is on full display with Steve McQueen’s fragrantly luscious new film “Widows.”  Boasting an all-star cast that’s led by the talents of Academy Award winner Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki, the film captures a snapshot of the human condition when survival and endurance at the forefront.  Galloping on a taut script by Gillian Flynn, “Widows” is a highly entertaining, suspense thriller that is magnified by its performances and technical vibrations by its stellar crew.

Widows,” tells the story of three women (Davis, Debicki, and Rodriguez), who’s criminal husbands are killed during a robbery.  When the deceased men’s motives are revealed, a crime lord comes looking for payment for their indiscretions which has the women planning their own big job to regain what was stolen from them: their freedom and dignity.

If you’re searching for one of the best ensembles of the year, then look no further.  When your cast includes a multitude of Oscar-winners, nominees, underappreciated actors, and up and coming newcomers, you can’t help but sit back and be mesmerized by the acting gymnastics that are taking place on screen.

Viola Davis is a force of nature, which is now just a common theme in anything she participates.  Michelle Rodriguez, an actress who has blended her beauty and talent effortlessly throughout her career, is a lively strength although the script keeps her more reserved than we might like.  Elizabeth Debicki’s character summarizes the film’s most prominent theme of ownership and respect of one’s self.  The sparkling actress is both incredibly funny and spirited all the way through, likely being a favorite among many viewers along the way.  Cynthia Erivo is one of the film’s most significant finds, fetching a needed balance of energy and composure.

The men in the film all represent some of the worst sensibilities of the gender, but all portray it with an earnest vigor that is distinct.  Walking out the movie, best-in-show honors follow the magnificent Daniel Kaluuya, who emits fear and panic in its physical form.  Downright frightening in every frame, the Oscar-nominated actor of “Get Out” radiates, stealing every nook and cranny of the film in which he owns.  Liam Neeson serves his character well, finding stability that the audience can access while Colin Farrell exudes charm and political mischief to a perfect height.  Robert Duvall is brief yet alluring while Brian Tyree Henry makes his mark in another outstanding performance that just echoes home that the man is ready for his own vehicle to drive.

Steve McQueen, who directed the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave” and “Shame,” is not a subtle filmmaker.  He’s one of the few that leads with a clear purpose, executing his vision in every frame, and never wasting a moment with unneeded fluff thanks to editor Joe Walker.  McQueen takes technical chances throughout such as letting two prominent characters have a conversation during a car ride but never allowing the viewer to enter the vehicle with them.  Instead, he will enable the camera to look upon the windshield, unable to see inside, and just listen to their words while gaining a panoramic view of the neighborhoods in which they cohabitate.  The pairing of McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt is a marriage for the ages, and we look forward to seeing the duo collaborate continuously.

While knowing that the great Hans Zimmer scored the movie, I’d be remiss to remember too many chords that genuinely stand out.  One thing that does is the film’s sound mixing and sound editing team that makes gunshots feel as though they are happening right at your fingertips.

Widows” is an assortment of magnetism, slashing through the theater with savagery and determination.  It will present an interesting dialogue among viewers about their own behaviors and what they think they may know about themselves.  How do they counter anxiety and horror, and how would they choose to persist?  “Widows” is a slam dunk of a film.

“Widows” is distributed by 20th Century Fox and opens in theaters on Nov. 6.

GRADE: (★★½)

Be sure to check out the Official Oscar Predictions Page to see where “WIDOWS” ranks among the contenders!