‘Widows’ offers a new take on the heist film

The newest heist thriller “Widows” was released Nov. 16 to rave reviews, garnering a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Set in contemporary Chicago amidst a time of political turmoil, the film follows four women as they try to pull off a robbery in the wake of their husbands’ murders. The group is bonded by a desire to live or die on their own terms.

The film is directed by Academy Award winning-director Steve McQueen, who directed “Twelve Years a Slave.” “Widows” once again shows McQueen’s artistry and storytelling ability.

“Widows” is led by the magnificent Viola Davis who plays Veronica, the brains behind the operation and the widow of the murdered gang leader Harry Rawlings. Rawlings is played by Liam Neeson of “Taken” and “Schindler’s List.”

The film also features well-known actors including Daniel Kaluuya, Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Debicki, Jon Bernthal and Brian Tyree Henry.

Even with this star-studded cast surrounding her, Davis still commands the screen every second she’s on it. She thrives in this role because of her ability to portray a cold directness equally matched by moments of extreme vulnerability.

“Widows” offers a new take on the timeless heist film genre. In the same thread as of “Ocean’s Eight,” “Widows” creates another girl gang made for the big screen. Seeing women take up men’s roles in films is still a refreshing twist to the genre. For so long, heist-thrillers have relied on typical masculine motivators of bravado and providing for their families.

Instead, “Widows” uses the thieves’ grief over their husbands’ deaths, frustration over a corrupt patriarchal system and need to provide for themselves and their families is the backbone of this film. Seeing some new motivators adds a uniqueness to a well-worn plot.

McQueen also takes on a darker tone by focusing not just on flashy heists, but on the corrupt political system threatening the leading women of the film.

With that said, “Widows” still accomplishes the shocking, heart-stopping moments the genre is known for. In one of the opening scenes of the film, their husbands die during an intense shootout that ends with a series of jaw-dropping explosions that set the tone for the film.

Later on, Kaluuya’s character Jatemme Manning, Jamal Manning’s right-hand man is unpredictable throughout the film. In one scene early on in the film, Jatemme orders two men they hired to get their money to rap for him. The camera is right in the middle of everything, wheeling around them in tight shots. Then as they’re all getting into it and it seems like they might walk out of the room, Jatemme draws his weapon and shoots them in an unexpected turn of events.

Ultimately, McQueen uses this star-studded cast to create a different, compelling and worth-while film that is less about the satisfaction of pulling off the heist and more about the desperation and corruption that caused it.

Rating 5/5 stars


Alexis Taylor is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexis.taylor@uconn.edu.