Film Review: Widows

Steve McQueen’s Widows is a brilliant thriller, and a testament to the director’s cinematic mastery. The film is a tour de force. 

After a robbery goes wrong, the wives of criminals find themselves in debt to the wrong people. The women decide to take their fate into their own hands with an audacious plan…

There is so much to love about Widows that is pretty much impossible to find fault. With a screenplay by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, based on the Lynda La Plante novel, Widows offers a gripping narrative, multi-dimensional characters, and superlative filmmaking. 

From the startling jump cut opening (brilliantly edited Joe Walker), Widows is a film that grabs viewers and refuses to let go. The plot is fairly straightforward, yet there are so many elements which elevates the film way above a standard thriller. The pacing works well, rather than simply build tension towards a big heist, McQueen creates multiple strands, each with a sufficiently rich narrative. The characters are finely tuned; the protagonists have depth and feel realistic. The film is tense and captivating, and the finale almost breathtaking. Widows is a rare film in that the dialogue heavy and the action packed scenes work equally well. 

On the surface, Widows may be a heist thriller, but in reality it is so much more. The film has multiple layers. It is interested in what happens to women who aren’t the main breadwinner, and how they pick up the pieces in an unexpected circumstance. It considers political climate in the US through the local election battle. Political dynasty, the entitlement of a certain demographic, and the pursuit of power are all touched upon. McQueen also turns his lens to the divide between rich and poor, and the realities for black people in America. None of these elements are overplayed, instead they are enveloped by a well-crafted narrative.

McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt do some really interesting and effective things with the camera. The scene in which Jatemme and his crew confront the two young men is finely executed. The circling camera heightens the tension immensely. Likewise, later shots following the heist and the startling opening sequence show the talent behind the camera. Hans Zimmer’s score is great, and the sound design immensely effective.

The ensemble cast are all on form. Viola Davis is as convincing as ever as Veronica; she perfectly conveys the grief, anger and fear of the character. Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Duvall are also great. Daniel Kaluuya stands out in particular. Kaluuya is incredibly menacing as Jatemme; his believability is testament to the actor’s versatility.

Widows is Steve McQueen’s most accessible film to date. Yet it loses none of the artistry that we have come to expect from the filmmaker. Undoubtedly, Widows is one of the best films of the year.

Widows opens the BFI London Film Festival on 10th October 2018.

BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 

Strands

As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Previews: The Happytime Murders Clip, Climax, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a brand new The Happytime Murders clip, Climax, Widows, and more…

The Happytime Murders Clip

Here is the latest The Happytime Murders clip. Directed by Brian Henson, the film stars Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and a host of puppets. Set in a world where humans co-exist with puppets, the film is about a private investigator who reunites with his ex-partner to find a serial killer. The Happytime Murders will hit UK screens on 27th August 2018.

Climax Trailer

Above is the trailer for Gaspar Noé’s Climax. The film is about a dance troupe’s party that goes awry. Not has assembled a cast of non-actors and professional dancers for the film. After debuting at Cannes earlier this year, Climax will close FrightFest on 27th August, and will be released in UK cinemas on 21st September 2018.

Peterloo Poster

Here is the new poster for Mike Leigh’s Peterloo. The film is a portrayal of the events surrounding the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. The film’s cast includes Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake. Peterloo will have its premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, taking place in Manchester (the first time a film has debuted outside the capital at the festival). It will be released at cinemas across the UK on 2nd November 2018.

Widows Trailer

Widows is the new film from Steve McQueen. With a screenplay written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, the film is about four women who have a debt left behind from their criminal husbands. Widows offers an enviable cast which includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Daniel Kaluuya. Widows will open the BFI London Film Festival on 10th October, and will hit screens across the UK on 6th November 2018.

Crazy Rich Asians Clip

Here is a clip from the upcoming Crazy Rich Asians. The comedy is directed by John M. Chu, and stars Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, and Ken Jeong. The film is about a New Yorker who travels with her boyfriend to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Although it is already out in America. Crazy Rich Asians does not reach UK screens until 14th September 2018.

Film Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl

David Fincher’s adaptation of the best-selling novel Gone Girl is a finely executed mystery.

When his wife Amy is missing from the family home, Nick Dunne faces a media frenzy over her disappearance. Things intensify when speculation that Nick was involved in Amy’s disappearance begins to grow…

Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s novel (with the author acting as screenwriter), Gone Girl is an engaging mystery thriller. The film is superbly structured, and executed with flair.

Director David Fincher guides the story with aplomb, Given the nature of the narrative, Gone Girl could have easily been a trashy thriller more suited to television movie status with some hokey twists. In Fincher’s capable hands, however, the film is elevated beyond this. The result is an engrossing mystery with satisfying progression.

Pacing of Gone Girl is great. Viewers are engaged from the outset, with the story providing a rich hook. The reveals in the narrative are measured, and arrive at suitable intervals. It is this that keeps the audience gripped; the story is meaty enough for viewers to demand to know where it will lead.

At the heart of Gone Girl are two themes. The first is marriage, as the film plays out a complex relationship between the two protagonists, particularly through the use of flashbacks. Secondly, and more interestingly, Gone Girl satirises media coverage of missing person cases, such as the one featured in the film. The satire is on point, with parallels in sensationalist coverage abundantly clear. There are also laughs to be found within this.

Ben Affleck offers a good performance as Nick Dunne. However, it is Rosamund Pike as Amy who really steals the show with a convincing performance. Cinematography in the film is polished, and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is a good accompaniment.

Gone Girl may actually work much better for viewers who have not read the book; it is the potent mystery which is so engrossing. Notwithstanding, David Fincher offers plenty besides to please his audience.