A couple of weeks ago I bemoaned the fact that First Man, while being an excellent film, received sparse critical or awards recognition during the 2019 season. After I watched Widows, I found myself being mad not only for the scarcity of nominations, but in some portions of the globe, the lack of real recognition whatsoever. Dang family, this is a good flick!
Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) adapted the Lynda La Plante novel that Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) directed. Veronica (Viola Davis, Fences) is dealing with the loss of her husband Harry (Liam Neeson, Schindler's List) in a failed robbery. As it turns out Harry was robbing from a crime boss named Jamal (Bryan Tyree Henry, Atlanta) who is running for alderman in Chicago. So Veronica gets the wives of Harry's crime partners together for a heist designed to get the money and pay back Jamal.
Did I say that Jamal was running for alderman? He was doing this against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks), a near-prototypical Chicago politician, racist, corrupt and furthering the legacy begat from his father Tom (Robert Duvall, Days of Thunder). It's not necessarily a secondary plot arc, but given the way Widows plays out it's maybe 1B or 1C.
This is because the story puts these storylines together with such deliberateness, and combined with the authenticity of the ensemble, makes for a journey you don't want to leave. It's one thing to see a portion of an arc come onscreen and you brace yourself for it, because you know it'll grate you somehow. The focus on a secondary or tertiary character is a waste of time and a distraction from getting back to seeing the people you want to onscreen. There is a tiny bit of that here, but not so much that you're aching to see Davis come back onscreen.
In fact, you want Davis to come onscreen because for all you know about her acting talent, she brings it in a big way with Veronica. She's numb by loss, but after being confronted about the money realizes she needs more, or something, to call her own, and the heist gives her this claim, or even a sense of purpose. She serves as the compass to the other women (hell, I haven't even talked about them yet, you've got Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon? I mean, man), her scenes with Neeson are brief yet feel honest, and everywhere you turn, there's a familiar face. Jamal's brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out) serves as the muscle for the brothers and you'll not find a more chilling and strangely charismatic character in recent memory.
Widows puts me in a bit of a conundrum because I want to talk so much about it, but there is a lot of it that's better left discovered anew as I did. It's a heist film, it's a political film, it's a statement on the American condition in 2018, but whatever your take away from Widows may be, it certainly is one of the best films of the year and now that people can see it they should run, not walk, to check it out.The Blu-ray:
Fox gives Widows an AVC encode to go with its 2.39:1 widescreen presentation, with the results looking exceptional. Facial poring on Davis and Duvall (among others) looks excellent, Steadicam shots on things like Jetemme getting rid of a couple of clumsy soldiers, or a fixed shot of a limo window look natural and sharp. The Chicago nights are dark and inky, and black levels in the film present an excellent contrast, with explosions that bring in bright yellows and oranges. An excellent presentation, no doubt.The Sound:
The DTS HD-Master Audio 7.1 track also lives up to the reputation, with gunfire providing a lot of dynamic range and low-end fidelity. Dialogue is consistent through the listening process and includes interesting channel panning from whizzing cars and Farrell walking away from a hounding member of the press. The film's music sounds good and clean when used, and smaller moments like a ring hitting a floor put you in the middle of the room. The film is generally stoic from its source material but you get the feeling that once it gets going, it pays off in a big way.The Extras:
Save for a stills gallery and trailer (2:01), the only other extras is "Unmasked," a multi-part series of featurettes that look at the film (52:10). It's pretty good with lots of participation from the main players of the cast and crew, and talks about working with some of the bigger names and their thoughts on McQueen the director. The BBC miniseries is given some due props, and the production shares their thoughts on shooting in Chicago, how the physical work was good and the heist in general, and maybe includes a deleted scene or two? In lieu of a commentary, all of these things together is pretty good.Final Thoughts:
About the only thing I thought of when I heard about Widows was that it was a more serious Oceans 8, but it's different than that, in that it's better in just about every way, and you should see it immediately. It looks good, sounds good, the extra is solid, and every time you turn around you see someone in the film who is both immediately recognizable and credible in what they're attempting. It's winter, there's not a lot of things in the theater, so you could see this and be immensely pleased with your decision.