Widows - Tödliche Witwen (2018) Poster

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McQueen's latest film Widows is a lesson in bad storytelling
thehumanwritesproject17 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
First What worked... 1) The representation of diverse female characters on screen in leading roles. 2) The acting was great despite the bad script. 3) Directorial choices: Two moments that stood out were: 1) the intro to the characters, a well executed and well edited and sound designed sequence that cut back and forth between snipits of the women prior to becoming widows, juxtaposed with the violent heist gone wrong that eventually turned them into widows. 2) Another standout directorial moment is when Mcqueen chooses to show the journey from an impoverished predominantly black neighborhood to the wealthier part of town, all while two characters talk but are never seen. This was smart because it showcased the environment as a player in the story, and because the dialogue was mediocre at best, and actually showing the characters speaking would have felt melodramatic, expository, and uninteresting, but by shooting it in this way, it forced the viewer to listen less to the dialogue and focus more on the environment in which the event was taking place.

Now for what DIDN'T work...... 1) The Story: is not only formulaic and filled with predictable tropes, but everything that happens from beginning to end is at the expense of believability and truth. While Widows pitches itself as a heist movie, there's no set-up, build up, or pay off for the heist. There is simply no struggle. Because the script never gives us a plan of the heist, we don't follow the protagonists through the process of preparing to execute a plan that may/may not go as expected, instead we just see the widows running around and buying guns and vans but with no explanation of why and how they will carry out the deed; and thus, the viewer is unable to emotionally connect to the potential exciting/scary trials and tensions of a planned heist gone awry. One of my favorite things about heist movies is that the planning involved builds the viewer's expectations for the undertaking, so by experiencing the process with the protagonists we'd immediately feel for them and want them to succeed. However, in Widows there is no mention of a plan, or a near-impossible undertaking that will keep the viewer at the edge of his/her seat rooting for the characters, instead it's just a given that there is some sort of plan in place that already exists and that is never really talked about or explained, so when the heist is in full swing, it becomes a missed opportunity to have manipulated audience expectations and to take viewers on an emotional, tense filled and action packed journey. This also eliminates any sense of real/potential danger in the film which makes for two hours and nine minutes of very slow and uneventful boredom. There is no payoff at ALL. I attended the WGA screening of this movie (followed by Q&A with Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn) and the screenwriters made sure to mention that they wanted the heist to be more "small time," they didn't want the characters to steal $20 million dollars, but rather a smaller amount that would be divided among all of them. This comment felt more like an excuse for why Widows' stakes were so low, and less of a commentary on how wonderfully effective "small time" crime movies can be. In a good "small-time crime" film, the circumstances and stakes are so dire that stealing $10 could have really significant consequences, and the build up could make it very compelling (and sad) to watch someone risk everything for a small reward. Widows fails to deliver on any substantial set-up that could lead to either a great pay off, or sad/violent/disturbing disappointment. A missed opportunity for the writers to manipulate audience emotional connection to the story and its characters. Another big issue with the film is that entire storylines are built up in Act I and then just dropped and unexplored by Acts II and III. An example of this is the story of Jamal Manning (played by Tyree Henry), who is painted as a crooked politician who serves as the catalyst/threat in the story that leads Veronica (Davis) to pursue this heist. However, while he does threaten her in Act I, Jamal's pursuit of this money falls by the wayside sometime in Act II, and Veronica's intention and reason for "going on this heist journey" (to pay back Jamal the money her husband stole, and to split the rest among the widows) never gets a resolution. She never has to face Jamal about the money, Jamal never comes back to claim the money, Jamal's entire storyline and intentions which seem to take center stage in Act I are barely mentioned or addressed by Act III. So the script sets up the audience expectations for really high stakes: If Veronica doesn't pay Jamal back the $2M then terrible things will happen to her (and to her dog?!?!) but then Jamal never comes back to collect on his threat, he never again inquire about the money that is owed to him, this storyline never really goes anywhere except on tangents and weak socio-political commentary.

2) Character choices are unbelievable, relationships are poorly developed and intentions are weak and misleading. Secondary characters like that of Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) are given center stage and built up in Act I, only to conveniently be killed off in easy and uninspired ways without struggle. Another major issue is the character of Harry Rawlins (Neeson). After his death, Harry leaves his wife a key, and a lock box combination, that sets Veronica on her journey. It is the set up that leads the viewers to believe that Harry loved his wife; so much so that after he's gone he wants her to have his most important possession - a special "notebook" that she can sell to the Mannings for a significant amount of money. So while in Act I, the story leads us to be believe Harry's intentions are to "help his grieving wife," by Act III the story wants us to believe that now he's all of a sudden willing to kill Veronica for money (If Harry was willing to fake his own death and leave Veronica his most prized possession, then why all of a sudden is he willing to kill her for this money? Wouldn't it have been easier if he never would have left her the notebook to begin with? His intentions are so muddled and all over the place that it's difficult to take anything that happens seriously). Harry's actions feel imposed onto the story to create a false sense of drama, and to add shock value, all the while compromising the believability of the characters. A ridiculous twist happens in Act III that makes Veronica's relationship to her husband feel like it was a joke all along, one with zero history, and zero emotional depth which is a contradiction to how the writers set up their relationship in Act I. When we first learn of the love story between Veronica and Harry, we are led to believe the couple shared a profound, deep connection, a complicated romantic history, they even raised a child together, and experienced the shared trauma of losing that child, but nothing in the set up of their love story would lead any smart audience member to believe that these characters would so quickly try to kill each other without a second thought. Nothing up until this point in the story leads the viewer to believe that these to people don't care enough about one another to think twice before pulling the trigger. What's shocking is not that they are willing to kill each other, but that it's even happening in the first place. The motivations, intentions and actions are confusing and completely unbelievable.

3) The film is filled with convenient plot points that account for missed opportunities for dramatic tension and struggle. For example, during the heist, the women's van is taken from them (it's not stolen, it's taken because stolen would imply a struggle, and there is no struggle). This could have been a fantastic opportunity for action. The protagonists had a plan, the plan went wrong, and now they have to fix it and get their van back? Watching them have to figure out a plan B would've been interesting, they would've had to struggle to figure out a solution, but instead the film cuts to them in another car chasing the van, and magically and conveniently Kaluuya's character hits a curb/wall, and dies instantly, allowing the women to simply just take their money back. There is no confrontation with Manning. So while the script attempted to give us a shocking twist (with Kaluuya taking the van from the widows immediately post heist) the women didn't have to fight very hard to win their van back. They're also never chased by cops (at any point), even though there are gunshots during the heist, even though they are robbing an affluent neighborhood that likely has surveillance cameras and security guards, even though they leave loose ends at the Mulligan house (Nurse could call the cops when her patient Tom Mulligan is killed) but no, there is no one after the widows. Any potential complications that could make the story more interesting are never explored. There is never a sense of fear, or urgency. During the heist, another obstacle presents itself that is quickly dismissed. This happens when the nurse (Robert Duvall's caretaker) comes out of the bedroom mid robbery, at which point the widows decide to let her go back to her bedroom. In a film more grounded in reality, when the stakes are supposedly so high, and these women are supposedly so desperate and reckless, when prison or death are at risk, and their children could be left without mothers, WHY would these women let the nurse go right back to bed after being discovered? Are they not afraid she will call the police? Are they not worried she'll wake everyone up and they'll be caught? Apparently NOT. And in an attempt to make this feel like a believable choice, one of the widows says "do you think she'll call the police?" and another widow says "No that would be stupid" what is so stupid about calling the police if you're being robbed? It's just a terrible story.
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Poor plot, open loops and ultimately pointless
nickbolton-639999 November 2018
Going against the grain of all the positive reviews, I found this a very unsatisfying and silly drama. The plot is incoherent and so many story lines are left undeveloped and, essentially, irrelevant. Key plot lines make no sense at all from the macro plot to the micro details that don't stack up and serve only to undermine it. I suspect the very same film from a less regarded director would be slammed but we become hyptonised to assume there must be something important and worthy going on here.

With so many plot lines this would make a great Netflix series but as a film it is very poor.

Only the acting redeems it.
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Disappointed after seeing good reviews
jackstevefitz8 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Sorry everyone but I found Widows a bit dull despite having a strong cast. Plot was very weak, characters under developed and quite frankly not interesting. When I saw Liam Neeson sat in the closet In one scene I laughed out loud. Best things in it were Colin Farrells eyebrows and the little dog.
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Thrilling and thought-provoking
Jared_Andrews27 November 2018
Steve McQueen, the Academy Award winning filmmaker behind '12 Years a Slave,' directed the hell out of this movie. Since 'Widows' is a heist flick, some may view this directing choice for McQueen as a step down from the power and pervasiveness of his most recent film. But that's not the case. With the way McQueen moves the camera and frames his shots, he displays a wizardry of creativity and a mastery of his craft. He shows us that no genre of film is taking step down if it's handled correctly.

Within the opening moments of this elevated thriller, it's evident that we're witnessing something made by a true pro. Crucial plot points are unveiled via dialogue-free or dialogue-light scenes that allow the actors room to convey story in other ways. There's a couple lying together, clearly deeply in love. There's woman with a black eye swatting away the hand of a consoling husband. There's a man trying unconvincingly to assure his wife that he has their store's finances under control. These rich backstories and fully formed characters reveal themselves in abrupt scenes but somehow never feel rushed. These scenes tell us so much by saying so little.

After introducing these soon-to-be widows and their soon-to-be late husbands, we watch a flashback of the violence and destruction that led to their deaths. The husbands were criminals, and they stole a lot of money from a lot of bad people. Now Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), who happens to be one of those bad people and who happens to be a running for political office, wants his money back. He and his enforcer brother (Daniel Kaluuya, perfectly chilling in a way that's not at all over-the-top) make it clear that the widows have only a few days to pay two million dollars, or they will suffer the same fate as their husbands.

Veronica (Viola Davis), the widow of the criminal group's leader steps up as the leader of these blindsided woman and shares her husband's notebook, which contains the plans for a job that will land them five million dollars. Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) agree to join, but the fourth widow doesn't show up to the meeting for some unclear reason.

It's Davis' show, and the film would struggle without her flawless performance. She's the glue or the straw or the foundation or something. She's essential-that much is certain. But she's far from the only standout. Kaluuya is stellar, as always, and Debicki as well as rising star Cynthia Erivo jump off the screen. McQueen certainly knows how to make actors pop. Credit him as well as each performer.

In addition to the thrilling action and interpersonal drama, there is also a healthy dose of social commentary. It's delivered with just the right degree of subtlety. It's never too overt of condescending, but it's noticeable if you want to pay it attention.

This movie has a lot going for it. Call it an elevated heist. Call dramatic thriller. Call it whatever you want. By any classification, this is a brilliant film and one that deserves plenty of consideration come award season.
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Disappointing - Expected much more
gokeadegbayibi18 November 2018
Went into the theatre expecting so much from this movie. Unfortunately it was slow, boring, incoherent movie with convoluted plot twists that weren't properly explained. I kept hoping for a big reveal / climax that would somehow salvage the waste of time that it was but it never happened. In fact the end was even more disappointing and meaningless.
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Could have been better with the pacing and its tedious direction.
cruise013 December 2018
Widows (3 out of 5 stars).

Widows is a heist film filled with twists and turns, great cast ensemble, and too long of a dull direction. Steve McQueen direction tries to be a little raw with its tension of racist police, corrupt politicians, abusive husbands, and mob bosses. The plot is layered with a thick story that tries to cover it all. His direction can be a little boring at times were nothing happens for a long stretch of a running time.

The plot follows Harry (Liam Neeson) a thief and his group of men Florek and Jimmy robbing from a crime boss. When the robbery falls apart and nothing works out. Leaving their wives behind as widows, Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) are struggling to live on their own. And are being taunted by Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) to recover the money their husbands stole. Meanwhile, a rising politican Jack (Colin Farrell) is trying to win the election with his competitor Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) getting mixed up with the affair after the robbery sets everything in motion. I can not say much more about the story without giving away spoilers. There are a few twists and turns. It is surprisingly better than I expected with the story.

Viola Davis was great. Same with the rest of the cast ensemble who all did great. Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki both playing widows and struggling to live on their own. Colin Farrell was good as a politician that is always being looked down on by his father played by Robert Duvall. Daniel Kaluuya plays a good psychopath that is harassing three leading ladies about the stolen money.

Sadly, the film does struggle with its long running time which felt too long than it should have been. It does get slow and boring with the pacing. Long stretches of nothing. Once the three leading ladies are planning on the heist job things starts picking up which is almost after an hour of its long running time. Veronica, Linda, and Alice are plotting the heist by finding the location, vehicle, weapons, and these inexperienced ladies are learning to get the job done.

The second thing I was disappointed was the music score is underwhelming. Especially, by Hans Zimmer. His score was forgettable.

Overall, Widows is a fair heist movie. Great cast. Good plot with its twists and turns. The direction is dull and slow moving and a tedious music score.
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Death becomes her
bob-the-movie-man10 November 2018
If you are considering "inheritence planning" there are probably a number of things you might be toying with: what happens to your house; how to best transfer your investments; who gets the dog; etc. But probably "a grudge" is not on the list. But that's the problem faced by teacher's union rep Veronica (Viola Davis). As you might presume from the film's title Veronica, together with fellow widows Linda (Michelle Rodriquez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Amanda (Carrie Coon), are left in a tight spot when a gang's robbery of a local black hoodlum's stack of cash goes badly wrong. The leader of the gang, and Veronica's husband, is Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson), and his certain set of skills are not enough to save him.

The victim of the robbery, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), is running for local office in the upcoming elections against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), trying to take over the role as part of a long dynasty from his grouchy father Tom (Robert Duvall). Where Jamal might be better with words, Jamal's brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya, "Get Out") has a more physical approach to resolving issues.

What Harry has left behind for Veronica is a notebook containing the details of their next job, and Veronica gathers the female group together to carry out the raid to help save them from a "bullet in the head".

I really enjoyed this film. It's the ying to the yang of the disappointing "Ocean's 8" from earlier in the year. Yes, it's YET another film that focuses on female empowerment and with a strong black presence within the cast. But what for me made it stand out above the crowd was the quality of the writing and the assuredness of the directing.

Although based on the ancient UK TV series by Lynda La Plante, the script is written by "Gone Girl" screenwriter Gillian Flynn, and is excellent. It really doesn't EXPLAIN what is going on, but shows you a series of interconnected scenes and lets you mentally fill in the blanks. While you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand the overall story arc, I must admit that even now I'm not 100% sure of some of the nuances of the story. Harry, for example, seems to be a hardened career criminal, and yet he seems to be revered by the political leaders on both sides, even though he seemed to have loyalty to noone. The script cleverly uses flashbacks and has enough twists and turns to keep you on your mental toes.

The characters also worked well for me, with each having a back story and motivations that were distinctly different from each other. Alice (helped by Debecki's standout performance) is particularly intriguing coming out of an 'interesting' relationship. Is she just following the path of her unpleasant mother (Jacki Weaver)? Some of the actions might suggest so.

As for the direction, Steve McQueen (he of "12 Years a Slave"), delivers some scenes that could justly be described as "bold". A highpoint for me was a short drive by Jack Mulligan and his PA Siobhan (an excellently underplayed Molly Kunz) from a housing project, in a neighbourhood you might worry about walking through at night, to the Mulligan mansion in a leafy and pleasant street. McQueen mounts the camera on the bonnet (hood) of the car, but you can't see the interior other than occasional glimpses of the chauffeur. All you can hear is Mulligan's rant to his Siobhan. I thought this worked just brilliantly well. The heist itself well done and suitably tense with an outcome that continues to surprise.

If there's a criticism then the ending rather fizzles out, leaving a few loose ends flapping in the breeze.

As for the performances, it's only been a couple of weeks since my review of the excellent "Bad Times at the El Royale" and I named as my second film of the year for my (private) "Ensemble Cast" award. And here hot on its tail is the third. There are such strong performances across the cast that it's difficult to pull out specifics: as you start looking at the list you pull out more and more and more names...

  • As referenced above, I loved Elizabeth Debecki's performance. Both vulnerable and strong all in one package.
  • Colin Farrell, for me, gives his best performance in years as the son caught within the shadow of his overpowering father. A confrontational scene between Farrell and Robert Duvall is particularly powerful.
  • Daniel Kaluuya is truly threatening (possibly slightly OTT) as the psycho fixer.
  • For the second time in a month Cynthia Erivo stands out as a major acting force, as the hairstylist cum gang member Belle.
  • Jon Michael Hill, excellent as a fire-breathing reverend with flexible political views.

It would not surprise me to see Best Supporting Actor nods for any combinations of Debecki, Farrell, Kaluuya and Erivo for this.

I must admit that I'm not the greatest fan of Viola Davis: I find her performances quite mannered. But there's no doubting here the depth of her passion and with this lead performance she carries this film.

Final Thoughts: I loved this as an intelligent action movie that's a cut above the rest. Which is a surprise, since from the trailer I thought it looked good but not THAT good! It comes with my recommendation for an exciting and gripping two hours at the cinema.

(For the full graphical review, please check out One Mann's Movies on Facebook. Thanks).
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Top-notch talent, often violent, taut until... it isn't
jimcheva7 October 2018
It would be hard NOT to recommend this film simply based on the top of the line actors here. Seeing Viola Davis and Liam Neeson as passionate lovers might be worth the whole film. Michelle Rodriguez for once doesn't play the Michelle Rodriguez character (someone else does); you might almost mistake her for America Ferrara initially. Duval plays in a familiar register but he does it well; Farrell is workmanlike but in an unfamiliar role. Etc.

As for the story, it is wound tight for most of the film, including scenes of violence worthy of (and not always far from) Tarantino. There is also a theme - almost overdone these days - of women discovering themselves through transgression. And there are some very sexy scenes.

Strangely though, the film goes seriously off-track at the end, almost as if the screenwriters ended up in a hurry or just didn't care anymore. Except for one applause-worthy moment, the ending feels cursory and leaves some pretty obvious questions unanswered. Which is downright strange for such an otherwise tightly written film. To put it another way, for much of the film it's 8 or 9 star, then in the close it's 3 or 4.

I'm surprised honestly some of the high-powered talent here didn't demand some rewrites. As it is, you'll probably enjoy much of it (unless you can't stomach violence) and certainly if you're the kind of viewer who just lives for a few good moments between real pros, you've got them here. But it's an incomplete experience in the end.
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Very very slow pace....
charliehmi-0846812 November 2018
For the first two thirds nearly nothing happens, the pace is so slow. I was shifting uncomfortably in my seat along with many others in the theatre.

For such a long talky film you never really get to know and invest in the characters as there's just not enough character development. Subsequently the ending just left me shrugging my shoulders and saying 'so what?'.
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jayanatha766 November 2018
I found this film surprisingly poor. Excellent performances don't save it. Continuity issues, silly sentimental outcomes, amounts of money that don't add up. In my opinion the Lynda La Plante original TV series was better.
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squeezing in every message possible
ferguson-616 November 2018
Greetings again from the darkness. Woman power. Black power. Racist old white men. Corrupt politicians. Abusive husbands. Cheating white husbands. Racist cops. Men are bad. Women are strong and good. If a filmmaker were to blend all of these stereotypes into a single movie, then as movie goers we should expect an ultra-talented filmmaker like Steve McQueen to go beyond conventional genre. Unfortunately, a nice twist on the heist movie formula from Lynda La Plante's novel turns into predictability that whips us with societal clichés posing as societal insight.

I seem to be one of the few not raving about this movie. Hey it has the director behind Best Picture Oscar winner 12 YEARS A SLAVE (Mr. McQueen), a screenplay he co-wrote with Gillian Flynn (GONE GIRL) from the aforementioned novel by Lynda La Plante, and a deep and talented cast of popular actors. It ticks every box and it's likely to be a crowd-pleaser, despite my disappointment. Every spot where I expected intrigue, the film instead delivered yet another eye-roll and easy-to-spot twist with a cultural lesson. Each of the actors does tremendous work, it just happens to be with material they could perform in their sleep.

It's the kind of film where audience members talk to the screen - and it plays like that's the desired reaction. This is the 4th generation of the source material, including 3 previous TV mini-series (1983, 1985, 2002). It makes sense that this material would be better suited to multiple episodes, rather than hurried through 2 hours. There are too many characters who get short-changed, and so little time to let the personalities breathe and grow. But this is about delivering as many messages as possible.

A strong premise is based in Chicago, and finds a team of four burglars on a job gone wrong. This leaves a mobster/politician looking to the four widows (hence the title) for reparations. Since the women have no money, their only hope is to tackle the next job their men had planned. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Carrie Coon play the widows, though only the first three are given much to do, as the talented Ms. Coon is short-changed. In fact, Ms. Davis is such a strong screen presence that she dominates every scene she is in - she's a true powerhouse. Even Liam Neeson can't hang with her. Colin Farrell appears as a smarmy politician and Robert Duvall is his f-word spouting former Alderman dad. Cynthia Erivo has a nice supporting turn in support of the women, and Bryan Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin J O'Connor, Lukas Haas, and Jon Bernthal fill out the deep cast ... see what I mean about too many characters and too little time?

There is no single thing to point at as the cause for letdown. The story just needed to be smarter and stop trying so hard to comment on current societal ills. As an example, a quick-trigger cop shooting an innocent young African-American male seems thrown in for the sole purpose of ensuring white guilt and an emotional outburst from the audience. It's difficult to even term this film as manipulating since we see the turns coming far in advance. Two far superior message films released earlier this year are Spike Lee's BLACKKKLANSMAN and Boots Riley's SORRY TO BOTHER YOU. For those who need only emotion and little intellect in their movies, this not-so-thrilling heist might work. For the rest of you, it's good eye-roll practice.
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I want my money back
akkjell20 November 2018
This movie was awful. It was a bunch of scenes and back stories, none of which had anything to do with anything. There was no closure or relevance to virtually any of them, and at the end of the movie, I was just left with a bunch of questions about what had to do with any material part of the movie. It seems like literally nothing had to do with anything else. It was slow, disjointed, and without purpose. I am stunned that a movie this bad can even get made and released. The best part of this movie was that it ended.
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Not your average heist thriller
GODZILLA_Alpha_Predator20 September 2018
Caught Widows at TIFF this month and I can tell after watching that this is going to be an Oscar favourite next year. After a group of criminals dye in a heist gone wrong, their widows, Veronica, Alice and Linda, are forced to collect the money to repay their husband's debt. From there the women have to find their individual strength to survive especially when most of the men in their world are either cut-throat criminals or corrupt politicians. And that is just the basics of Widows. This story has far more to tell when you look at it under the surface.

Widows is thematically about how people move on and rebuild themselves in a broken society. The core group of women have had their lives be defined by their husbands' actions for better or for worse. From sexism, race relations, entitled privileges, politics to infidelity, director Steve McQueen is exploring so many of these subjects in his heist thriller. In less capable hands, so many of these themes and messages could feel force-fed and overbearing but McQueen makes them engaging in every single scene he shoots. Scenes will cut from calm, quiet moments to establish the nature of the widow's late marriages to sudden bursts of violence, action and tension to get your heart racing. Along with shots filled with dark and cool, light color palettes, McQueen shows on screen how divided the world is between those who feel they deserve wealth and power and those are mistreated by it. And through this divided perception, the women begin to take ownership of their lives and reassess what their marriages were really built on.

While Widows is a thematically dark and serious story, Gone Girl author-turned-screenwriter Gillian Flynn gives the characters a lot of subtle humour and sharp witted dialogue that actually makes the film surprisingly fun to watch. And to its credit that Flynn, along with McQueen as the co-writer, gives so many of these characters, especially the star women, unique layers that makes no one feel like a blank slate.

While it is an ensemble piece, Viola Davis is definitely the most awards-worthy to watch. As the lead widow Veronica, Davis brings so much to her character without even having to say a word. Davis displays this feeling that Veronica has to build a wall to block the emotional pain she is suppressing in order to keep the other widows in line for the upcoming heist. But once in moments when she is alone, you see Davis unleash that emotions very suddenly and then very quickly go back into being a commanding presence. Michelle Rodriguez gets a break from the usual action films to show dramatic range in her character Linda. While I wouldn't call it a break-out, it establishes that Rodriguez can play more then just the usual action heroine. Collin Farrell also does great bringing complexity to the corrupt politician Jack Mulligan who is seeking to escape his cruel father's legacy. But Widows is also filled with a lot of surprising stand-outs in terms of acting performances. Elizabeth Debicki does a lot with her character Alice that could have been one-note. Debicki shows Alice go on a transformation from a young, frail socially-dependant housewife to a character that is done being mistreated and seen as vulnerable. While Cynthia Erivo doesn't show up until late in the film, she makes a very strong impression once she joins the crew. And Brian Tyler Henry and Daniel Kaluuya bring a lot to their villain roles. Henry is calm, confident but also intimidating as the kingpin-turning-politician Jamal Manning, particularly in a scene with Davis. However it is Kaluuya as Jamal's brother Jatemme, who is just absolutely terrifying. With just a stare, Kaluuya'c character makes you feel small and scared knowing what horrible things he will do next. The one thing I will criticize is that I felt both Jon Bernthal and Carrie Coon were both underutilized in their roles.

Widows has a lot going on in its two-hour runtime and there some plot twists that make it feel a little incoherent but does very little to impact the film's near perfect quality. Widows is a film that is one of the most thrilling of this year and still has a very compelling and ambitious story that McQueen and Flynn have put on screen.
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Consider this a divorce
deastman_uk12 November 2018
My partner was so upset by this film that she made me watch the original TV series from the 80s. Incidentally, it still stands up and makes a lot more sense.

But the question must be asked, in this day and age, why convert something that was a TV series into a film? The story of wives taking on a bank heist feels kind of #metoo in a perverse way so I get that, but the motivation of too many of the major characters simply make no sense.

Colin Farrell plays a snake politician who wants no part in the family business, but already seems to be getting far too involved out of choice. One of the wives has a relationship whose only purpose is to provide a MacGuffin - this would be embarrassing in a student film. There is a Star Wars moment between one wife and another guy where the audience just laughs at how clumsy it is - this might be deliberate but plays no useful part in a heist film. The portrayal of the black gangsters is slightly more nuanced, but the only bits thats stick are uses of violence. There is also one more unexplained major character as you get nearer the end.

Viola Davis is very good, and McQueen clearly remembered her from Secrets and Lies, and most of the rest of the cast do their stuff well. Daniel Kaluuya is chilling. But Chicago itself makes less impact on the film. Some of the location choices were frankly puzzling.

I think the director (Steve McQueen) has managed to string a set of scenes that he feels have real human emotion in them, but has manifestly failed to create a film. Let alone a heist film. A brief look back at the brilliant Heat reveals a director who gave himself to the genre and let the cast breathe life into the characters. This film is treated more like a stage play, with characters already too constrained to expand.
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Too many themes, too little time
spidaman-0561421 October 2018
Standout acting, especially from Viola Davis, cannot save this movie from thematic incoherence. So many themes are touched here-heist movie, loss, race, power politics, sexism, domestic abuse, sex work, etc.-that none seem fully formed. This would be a great novel, miniseries or other long form, but loses cohesion in a standard movie length.
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No characters to like at all
unyan8 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Why I thought to myself about half an hour in, am I watching a film filled with shady greedy violent characters I already loathe. I cared little for anyone on screen apart from the cute little dog and my major worry was that she would come to some horrifying violent end. I only realised when they arrived at the heist venue what they were out to steal and from who as this was omitted from the script such was the obsession with politics and violent criminals up to that point. Liam neeson dies at the beginning leaving you to immediately speculate when he will return to earn his fee so the plot twist is little surprise. I couldn't decide whether to leave or just nod off. Hugely disappointing stuff from a normally top director but this kind of thing is not Steve's bag. Maybe it's because remember the eighties original so well which was brilliant stuff. 'Whatcha dun wiv the diamonds Dolly ?'
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bassemzreik7 December 2018
Poor story, so lake in details and a waste of time
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Slow paced nonsensical garbage
neon-4830717 November 2018
Good actors, bad acting. Liked the dog. Really liked the dog.
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Way Too Long
rkrisciu16 November 2018
OMG watching the movie almost made me a widower. So many things that didn't make sense. Loose ends and unbearable plot. Wasted 2 1/2 hours of my life. Very disappointing.
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A Mixed Bag of A Movie
martimusross10 November 2018
Incoherent in its multiplicity of themes this movies is a mixed bag of elements that worked and others that just overly complicated a simple heist.

What was good, Colin Farrell was good as was Elizabeth Debicki giving solid nuanced performances of conflicted characters, I also loved Olivia the dog who just dominated her scenes. Viola Davis and Liam Neeson overworked it and appeared nearly hysterical throughout which was a great shame.

The plot was labyrinthine and some plot turns just had no motivational necessity.

Overall I enjoyed it but where was the glittering promise we expected from Steve McQueen who seems to have lost his way he needs to decide either a block buster crime drama or an issue led movie a mixture of two genres is destined for failure.
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My most disappointing film at TIFF 2018...
michaeljohnson-275971 October 2018
I'm reminded of an interesting experience four years ago, at TIFF 2014. Over-hearing what some people were saying online on film forums, and in line waiting for Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, many were discussing "Is this a Festival film?".

It was arguably the most elitist thing I've heard about a film (and I've been to film school, where elitists thrive) because I always thought of film as something that engages everyone, and festivals are an amazing way to create awareness and engagement from the casual film-goer to those aforementioned elitists.

Why Director Steve McQueen's Widows reminded me of this experience is because the two films, on the surface, have much in common. Both Fuqua and McQueen enjoyed tremendous critical success with some of their previous films, even directing actors to Oscar-winning roles. Both men are a strong proponent of this generations' growing diversification in terms of directors; mentors to help young minority filmmakers find their own voice. Both men, when releasing these respected films in the Equalizer and Widows, based the films off an older television show, and created films that have much more of an action or thriller atmosphere than their previous resume.

And both, in my opinion, played it safe.

When I reviewed The Equalizer, I thought it unfortunately fell back on action movie tropes and convenience; that Fuqua, who had pushed the boundaries of drama and action before, didn't take any chances. McQueen, sadly, took a page out of that book with Widows.

The story follows four women, lead by Veronica (the amazing Viola Davis) who come together after Veronica's husband, Harry (Liam Neeson) and his crew of criminals are killed during a heist. Veronica then gathers most of the widows as they need to pull off another job to help settle things in their life, and with an angered gang leader, who was the individual Harry robbed. 1.jpg If Davis and Neeson aren't enough of a draw for you (and they should be, as they most definitely carry the film) then might I add that this is one of the greatest ensembles put together I have seen in a long time. Icons like Robert Duvall, big names like Colin Farrell, new stars like Elizabeth Debicki and Daniel Kaluuya, action mavens like Michelle Rodriguez, and some of the best actors television has offered in recent memory with names like Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead, Punisher), Carrie Coon (Fargo) and Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta). This was the draw for me. I couldn't believe what a collective McQueen had assembled.

I can only assume they believed in the project, however, after viewing the film, I no longer believe. I felt so many of the characters were stereotypes, archetypes or any other kind of type. Tom Mulligan (Duvall) and Jatemme Mannin (Kaluuya) stuck out the most. Both characters, who were antagonists were simply there to be hated, and in every way did McQueen play up the villainous tropes. Mulligan was just a mean-old-coot with all the characteristics we've come to hate about this burgeoning America; he was rich, white, racist and politically corrupt. A subtle comment on social equality and today's western world? Perhaps... but not that subtle. His character didn't even completely seem necessary. Jack Mulligan, his son (played by Colin Farrell) was the more interesting and layered character, caught between his father's crimes, his hatred for his father, yet still pushing to maintain the legacy and safety his family has built. If you removed the older Mulligan, the film would have remained pretty much the same which is a true waste of Duvall's talents. Kaluuya, who broke out in last years' Get Out was the biggest waste. His Jatemme was another character that could have either been amalgamated or cut completely. While the character had almost nothing to give a solid actor like Kaluuya, I even found the way he was played was too over-the-top villainous, throwing paraplegics from wheelchairs and killing without reason or remorse.

There were several aspects of the cast I was excited about, yet ultimately disappointed with. I was excited about Bernthal and Coon, but they're barely in the film. Even Neeson has very limited screen time, his role mostly comprised of flashbacks. Debicki is another gifted actor whose character was not given enough time or development to give the actor a chance. I would dare say that with the exception of Davis (again) almost all of the characters were one-dimensional.

Without Davis' Veronica, there is almost no one or nothing to latch onto in the story, (This may in fact be one of the downfalls of such a large ensemble and such an ambitious story). Luckily with Davis at the helm, steering this otherwise sinking ship, you can at least enjoy another powerful performance by this seasoned and award-winning actor. Veronica also represents the main point of the film, which is McQueen's focus on creating strong female characters. The Widows are in fact quite strong, one way or another, many of. I think with more time and a better rounded script, they could have all shown that. Sadly, once again, it seemed like the easy answer was to show physical prowess instead of inner strength or intellect; showing how fast Cynthia Erivo's Belle can run, showing Michelle Rodriguez's trademark Latina attitude, or showing Viola Davis' impressive musculature. Davis was the only character who on more than one occasion showed true inner strength and intellect, as she was not only capable of being Harry's equal in terms of planning and leading a heist, but perhaps even out-doing him.

Yet that subtext falls flat in many of the other characters. McQueen and his co-writer Gillian Flynn constantly attempt to show strength in these women, but fall just short. They constantly try to convey other sub-textual elements like the class war, or the way men treat women, but again, fall short. They merely introduce concepts and perhaps give them one other small moment within the film, but I never found any theme truly woven throughout the story. The element that was the biggest disappointment to me wasn't McQueen's direction, it was Flynn's writing - I was enamored with Gone Girl (ironically also released in 2014) as I thought the development, the twists, and ironically again, the breadth of strong female characters was near perfect.

For Flynn to be so near-perfect in her previous screenwriting endeavor, to create such intrigue, to masterfully reveal twists, and to develop the depth of character she did makes this endeavor that much more disappointing. Granted, she was adapting her own novel at the time, but she certainly has the writing talent and the tools available to have made Widows something special, or exhilarating, but instead it falls flat in every respect. The so-called twists especially were completely wasted. Mid way through the film, there is a major revelation that could have taken the story in so many different directions, and yet, once again, it went in the safest route possible.

Everything about Widows whispered "missed opportunity" to me, and I call it a whisper because the experience of viewing it was akin to waiting quietly, patiently, but then ultimately realizing my expectations were never going to be fulfilled. While the film starts with some intrigue and excitement, it becomes more and more predictable. The conclusion has been seen several times before in one iteration or another, and especially after the conclusion, I realized there were several plot holes and that my suspension of disbelief for some of the cinematic convenience had been stretched too thin over too much time. You may think I'm simply being too overly critical (even for a guy who has a job title with 'critic' in it), but the fact is, there were reactions from my fellow audience members that were inexplicably inappropriate. There were several moments where I'm positive the scene was projected to be dramatic or sad, but some TIFF goers were laughing. That's a serious issue that goes past someone's terrible individual sense of humor, that's a failure of the director and the actors to convey the intended tone and emotion.

You can't argue that a film like Widows, with its pedigree of direction, writing and one of the most impressive casts recruited is a Festival Film. Having seen the packed house at TIFF, you also can't argue that it will have thousands of fans clamoring to see it in theaters. What I can argue is whether it is the film it could have been. Flynn could have written a much tauter thriller. McQueen could have balanced the characters and pace of the film better. The actors could have tried to create more depth rather than surface level tropes. The potential with this group of artists far exceeds what was actually presented, but more importantly, so much of the movie has been done before. This goes beyond simply remaking a television show, but telling the story in a cinematic manner that is neither original nor inspired. I merely felt with all the talent this film had going in, what came out of it made Widows my most disappointing film at TIFF this year.
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Well crafted, well acted, well directed
bankofmarquis17 November 2018
If you are looking for a smart, intelligent, well-made, well-crafted, well-acted action-heist flick to see with the family over the Thanksgiving weekend, then look no further than WIDOWS.

Yes, it's that good.

Based on a 1983 British TV mini-series, Directed by Steve McQueen (12 YEARS A SLAVE) and with a Screenplay by McQueen and Gillian Flynn (GONE GIRL), WIDOWS tells the story of 4...yes...Widows who's husbands were mobsters that were killed while stealing money from other mobsters. When the rival mob comes to the Widows to get their money back, these women must band together to complete a job to get the money to save their lives.

Leading this disparate group of women is Oscar winner (for FENCES) Viola Davis. She brings a strength and vulnerability to her role and makes a surprisingly complex and charismatic center to this film. Joining her is the always tough and gritty Michelle Rodriguez and the eminently watchable Carrie Coon. The surprise performance of this group of widows is Elizabeth Debicki (the golden Ayesha in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2). Her widow, Alice, is more than just the "good-looking" trophy wife and has a depth and gravitas that upon first glance is not something that seems to be there. These 4 are joined by Cynthia Erivo and their group could probably kick the crap out of the Ocean's 8 crew.

McQueen has assembled a diverse and interesting cast to support these 5 - each "smaller" role filled with someone who brings something to the table that makes their character interesting. Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Collin Farrell, the always watchable Garrett Dillahunt and Jackie Weaver fill the film with "screen presence", power and strong characterizations that service the story. Special notice should be made for Daniel Kaluuya (Oscar nominated for GET OUT). His menacing "bad guy" ranks right up there on the list of "dudes you don't want to mess with". He was fascinating to watch - especially when he was doing "nothing" - you could see the animal swimming within him in the most still of moments.

All of these actors are directed with the Orchestral efficiency of McQueen - a director who knows what he's doing. He keeps the focus of his cameras where he needs to, sometimes eschewing the most obvious action to focus our attention elsewhere. The downside to McQueen is that he sometimes gets enamored with his beautiful pictures and atmosphere, so the film gets bogged down at times - especially in the first half - but all of this is in service to the larger story - a story that demands our attention.

The screenplay by McQueen and Flynn is full of plot twists and turns, of course, keeping you guessing throughout and concludes in a most satisfactory manner.

All in all a very fine time at the Cineplex. In this week of a myriad of items competing for your movie-going dollars, I would strongly recommend that you pick WIDOWS out of the pile and settle in for a good time..

Letter Grade: A-

8 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
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Another triumph for Mcqueen
varun-2507199717 November 2018
Went to the movie without knowing anything about it and I was fully impressed when I walked out. McQueen has done a fine job in making a realistic heist movie set in Chicago which shows the dark side of American politics & police. There are some scenes in the film which would possibly off and for the right reasons. Colin Ferrell was the most impressive performer in the film and Hans Zimmer has composed another flawless soundtrack yet again.
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Waste of time x10
tonihristov-0498610 November 2018
This was the worst movie ever. Cant belive that these famous actors signed up for this.
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Average at Best
mickmcc12346 November 2018
If you are looking for a drama then this is it, the acting is fairly well done. It just is a little all over the place sound track feels like it wants to be like a type of heat film which it is not. Not any action scenes and not much violence. pretty m7ch a drag to be honest.
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