Widows comes at you hard and fast, hitting you with a highly tense and action packed gut punch. Oh, and that’s just the first five minutes. Strap in, this is the type of adult, star-power-infused, intelligent crime drama that only comes around every so often. In today’s landscape where studios have largely given up on the mid-budget thriller in favor of the surefire success of a big budget blockbuster or a small-time indie Cinderella story, Widows is that throwback movie to the ’90s thriller that we can and should all get behind. It packs a serious punch, has some fun along the way, knows exactly the type of movie it needs to be, provides depth and nuance to its characters with its incredible star-studded cast, and it manages to accomplish all this in a crisp 130 minutes.

Steve McQueen, Liam Neeson, Gillian Flynn, Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Michelle Rodriguez, & Brian Tyree Henry at the Chicago International Film Festival

I was fortunate enough to see one of the film’s earliest screenings last month at the Chicago International Film Festival, and what an experience it was. Given that the film is set in contemporary Chicago, a notoriously crime-laden city, it made seeing the film in this setting all the more impactful. The movie does an exceptional job of capturing the atmosphere of the city, from run down urban neighborhoods to the jaw dropping architecture of The Loop. When I arrived to the theater on that Saturday, there was a significant buzz around the building that was different from any other day. I sat in my seat, and a few minutes later Steve McQueen, Gillian Flynn and a good chunk of the cast all took the stage to introduce the film.

The auditorium was electric, and it was something I won’t soon forget. Within minutes, I was reminded why McQueen had become one of the most sought after directors in Hollywood following his triumph at the Oscars with 12 Years a Slave. Working with twice the budget of that film, he was able to team with a now blisteringly hot writer in Flynn following her success with Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. They co-wrote this screenplay, and her intricate attention to detail and ability to flesh out characters in the world are felt throughout the movie.

Daniel Kaluuya & Brian Tyree Henry in Widows

Just looking at this cast is wild to see. I actually wish more people could go into this movie the same way I did, knowing very little about what was ahead. I had no idea that Kaluuya was in the movie and man, if you need further confirmation about his star potential, here it is. He absolutely knocks it out of the park, dare I say he’s even better here than in Get Out. I could go on and on about this cast because it is really one for the ages. Anchored by a powerful lead performance from Viola Davis, which I would hope earns her a Best Actress nomination, the movie is then able to branch off into all these different subsets of Chicago, such as political turmoil, mob ties, theft, sexual appropriation and so on. The movie manages to balance all these themes and works them towards a thrilling and impactful finale that is the definition of crowd pleasing. My theater erupted in applause at the film’s conclusion, and it felt completely organic. This is a film we can cheer for, one we can ride for, and it promises to be one that only grows in our estimation in years and rewatches to come.


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