English director/artist/screenwriter Steve McQueen first registered on my artistic radar screen in 1996 when the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago featured his short film “Five Easy Pieces”; his meteoric rise has been a quintessential example of the “cream rising to the top”; Museums have lionized him: The Art Institute of Chicago featured a swimmingly sensational exhibit in 2012; winner of the prestigious Turner Prize in 1999; represented Britain at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); it was the 2008 feature film “Hunger” that solidified his reputation as a celebrated, illustrious director.
McQueen’s first feature film after the Academy Award winning “12 Years a Slave”, “Widows”, is a taunting, tantalizing thriller, brilliantly directed, crafted and performed; it scores on a myriad of levels: screenwriter, Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) contributes substantially to the sensitive portrayal of women, blindsided by the deaths of their mendacious husbands, forced to satisfy their debt; cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, subtly flirts with Chicago’s underbelly (neighborhoods in transition) while capturing the lushness of its lake landscape; untoward politicians, vying for power, without bludgeoning hyperbole, are realistically discernible. Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, are duplicitous aldermen “Jack” and “Tom” Mulligan; Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) and Brian Tryee Henry are their deceitful, African- American, electoral challengers, “Jatemme” and “Jamal Manning.”
Arresting, flawless female characterizations, are crucial to the triumph and originality of the ubiquitous “heist” genre; Viola Davis, “Veronica”, is astounding as the heartbroken widow of gang leader, “Harry” (Liam Nesson) her innate intelligence and strength are intimidating, formidable; Elizabeth Debicki (“The Night Manager”) is hypnotic as fragile, ethereally beautiful (6 foot, 3 inches), “Alice”, she shimmers and glides through her every scene; Michelle Rodriguez, “Linda” with grit and realism, joins the feminine conspirators; Cynthia Erivo as driver “Belle” gives a straight forward portrayal of a gutsy, intrepid Valkyrie.
“Widows” is awash in intelligence, verve, intrigue, resulting in unequivocal, tantalizing pleasure.