10th October 2018 7.45pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
11th October 2018 2.00pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
12th October 2018 8.40pm at odeontcr: Odeon Tottenham Court Road
If King of Thieves shows how inadequate heist movies can get, Widows proves how good they can be. Steve McQueen has previously tackled harsh realist films like Shame and 12 Years a Slave, and now decides to delve into a mainstream genre. But following plot conventions is clearly something neither McQueen nor co-writer Gillian Flynn are aspiring towards, which ultimately results in an excellent piece of pure character cinema.
In Widows, a gang of bank robbers (which includes a memorable cameo from Liam Neeson) are shot and killed during their latest score – leaving their wives to mourn and/or deal with what comes next. But the money these dead husbands stole is wanted back. Veronica (Viola Davis), the lead widow, hatches a plan with the other wives (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) to conduct a heist of their own.
There’s an abundance of characters to follow, and the 129-minute movie feels like a bingeable Netflix series (no surprise, considering Widows was originally a novel and an 80s miniseries). McQueen and Flynn give every character their flare, unfolding each story with enough depth and empathy that we care about almost every one of them – even if they’re monstrous people. Even Colin Farrell’s rich and crooked middle-aged politician with a racist, Trumpish father (Robert Duvall) is understood to a certain extent.
It’s probably wise not to enter this movie with the hope of heist-talks and complicated step-by-step executions. The film has them, but the focus is really on everything else. We drift into the lives of the other characters, into details that have very little to do with the big job. The heist is almost irrelevant. It’s the kind of character drama that McQueen excels in, comparable to Tarantino or Scorsese but with a much harder edge.
This emphasis on character can have its faults, namely that the threat from the crooks and criminals is mostly focused on Veronica. The threat is suggested, but no danger befalls the other widows – which could have improved the Zimmer-scored action sequences.
But Widows is a fascinating and often thrilling milieu of characters struggling to live their lives. They’re not robbing banks for Bonnie and Clyde-like thrills – they’re doing it to survive.
Widows is released nationwide on 6th November 2018.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Widows here: