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.

Previews: Patriots Day Featurette, Rogue One, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a Patriots Day featurette, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Silence, and more…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Featurette

Here is Diego Luna talking about working on the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Luna plays Cassian Andor, a Rebel Alliance officer. The Star Wars spin-off features a stellar cast, including Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, and Forest Whitaker. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits UK screens on 15th December 2016.

Patriots Day Featurette

This Patriots Day featurette focuses on J.K. Simmons and the character he plays in the film. Patriots Day is an account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath that followed. Also starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, and Kevin Bacon, Patriots Day is set for release in 2017.

Silence Poster

Silence Poster

Martin Scorsese’s latest film Silence revisits some of the themes prevalent in his earlier pictures. Starring Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as Jesuits priests who visit Japan to locate their mentor. Also starring Liam Neeson and Ciarán Hinds, Silence will hit UK screens on 1st January 2017.

Fences Trailer

Here is the second trailer for Denzel Washington’s Fences. This one reveals a little more about the plot and the main characters than the first look at the film. Based on August Wilson’s award-winning play, the film also stars Viola Davis and Jovan Adepo. Fences will be released in selected UK cinemas on 10th February 2017, and everywhere from 17th February.

 

Passengers Clip

Here is a brief clip from the upcoming Passengers, which showcases the special effects that the film offers. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the film is about two passengers on a voyage to a new colony who wake up early in space. Passengers jets into UK cinemas on 21st December 2016.

Power Rangers Image

alpha 5 Power Rangers

Here is the first look at Alpha 5 from the upcoming Power Rangers movie. As with other images released from the film, the character looks pretty different from the 1990s TV show.  Alpha 5 is voiced by Bill Hader in the film. Also starring Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston, Power Rangers is scheduled for release on UK screens in 2017.

Hidden Figures Clip

Here is a brief clip from Hidden Figures. It is based on the true story of a group of black women who worked at NASA during the space race of the 1960s. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, and Kevin Costner. Hidden Figures is out in UK cinemas in February 2017.

Previews: Denial trailer, Hacksaw Ridge and More!

Plenty of trailers, images, and features this week, including the Denial trailer, Hacksaw Ridge, Wonder Woman and more…

Denial Trailer

Here is the new Denial trailer. The film is based on the legal battle over Holocaust denial. Rachel Weisz plays Deborah E. Lipstadt who is accused of libel by David Irving (Timothy Spall). Also starring Tom Wilkinson, Denial is set for release on 27th January 2017.

Fences Poster

Fences Quad Poster

Here is the latest poster for Denzel Washington’s Fences. Washington directs and stars in the film, based on August Wilson’s play. Wilson also writes the screenplay for the film. Also starring Viola Davis, Fences is out in UK cinemas in early 2017.

Hacksaw Ridge Clip

This is a clip from the upcoming Hacksaw Ridge. Directed by Mel Gibson, the film is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, who saved many soldiers without firing a weapon in a World War II battle. Starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, and Teresa Palmer, Hacksaw Ridge will be released on 27th January 2017.

Darkest Hour Image

Darkest Hour Image

The first image from Darkest Hour is striking to say the least. Gary Oldman has form as a chameleon, and proves his transformation skills once again playing Winston Churchill. Director Joe Wright’s film is about the tense time the former British Prime Minister faces trying to negotiate a peace treaty with Nazi Germany. Darkest Hour is scheduled for release on 29th December 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer

A spin-off from the wonderful The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie focuses on one of the best characters from the original film. This trailer reveals more about the plot, as well as the range of franchise characters we can expect. Featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, and Michael Cera, The LEGO Batman Movie will hit UK screens on 10th February 2017.

Passengers Poster

Passengers Poster

Here is the latest poster for Passengers. Starring America’s current sweethearts Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the film is about to passengers on a spacecraft transporting them to a different planet. Also starring Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne, Passengers is out in UK cinemas on 21st December 2016.

Wonder Woman Trailer

The second trailer for Wonder Woman reveals more about the narrative and the main characters. Set during World War II, the film tells the story behind the photograph seen in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman hits UK screens on 2nd June 2017.

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson Poster

Sully Poster

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson tells the story of the pilot who landed a passenger plane on the Hudson River. The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, focuses on the heroic act and the investigation that followed. Sully: Miracle on the Hudson jets onto UK screens on 2nd December 2016.

Previews: Rules Don’t Apply Trailer, Doctor Strange, More!

Lots of film-related goodness this week, including the new Rules Don’t Apply trailer, Hacksaw Ridge, Doctor Strange and more…

Rules Don’t Apply Trailer

Here is the latest Rules Don’t Apply trailer. The film is directed by Warren Beatty, who stars as Howard Hughes. The film is about a relationship between Hughes’ driver (played by Alden Ehrenreich) and an aspiring young actress (played by Lily Collins). Rules Don’t Apply is one of a number of recent films set in Hollywood’s Golden Age, following Café Society and  Hail, Caesar!. Beatty’s film is scheduled for release soon.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Trailer

Here is the new trailer for action-thriller Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. The film is a follow up to 2012’s Jack Reacher. This instalment sees To Cruise return as the title character. I am hoping that filmmakers keep the same tone as the original film, even if there is no Werner Herzog. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back hits cinema and IMAX screens on 20th October 2016.

Doctor Strange Poster

Doctor Strange Poster

Here is one of the Doctor Strange character posters. Tilda Swinton joins a stellar cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Womg, and Mads Mikkelsen) in Marvel’s latest film. Cumberbatch stars as Dr Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who sets out to repair himself following an accident. Doctor Strange is out in UK cinemas on 25th October 2016.

Moana Featurette

Here is Moana star Dwayne Johnson and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda talk about mutual love and respect in this new featurette. The film is about a teenager who sets out on a mission to complete her ancestors’ unfulfilled quest. Moana will be released in UK cinemas on 2nd December 2016.

Fences Trailer

Denzel Washington directs Fences, based on August Wilson’s award-winning play. Wilson also writes the screenplay for the film, which is about a man struggling to raise his family in the 1950s. Also starring the brilliant Viola Davis, Fences is set for release soon.

20th Century Women Trailer

Writer-director Mike Mills follows 2011’s Beginners with 20th Century Women. The film is about three women at different eras of the 20th century. Starring Annette Benning, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning, 20th Century Women will be released in 2017.

Hacksaw Ridge Trailer

Mel Gibson directs war drama Hacksaw Ridge. The film is about the true story of Desmond Doss, a soldier during World War II who saved many of his compatriots without firing a weapon. Starring Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, and Teresa Palmer, Hacksaw Ridge will be released in cinemas soon.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Trailer

Here is the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The film is based on the magical world created by J.K. Rowling. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out in 3D on 18th November 2016.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Accountant and More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, The Accountant, Wonder Woman and more…

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a live-action remake of the animated classic. Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Wes Bentley are joined by Oakes Fegley as the title character. Pete’s Dragon will be released in UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.

The Accountant Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for The Accountant. The film stars Ben Affleck as a maths savant who works on the books for criminal organisations. Also starring Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons, The Accountant is out in the UK on 4th November 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Featurette

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson and others discuss the upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Directed by Tim Burton, Jane Goldman wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits UK screens on 30th September 2016.

Office Christmas Party Trailer

Office Christmas Party is a new comedy from Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the directors of The Switch and Blades of Glory. The film is about staff who host an epic Christmas party to impress a potential client. With an ensemble cast that includes  Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and Courtney B. Vance, Office Christmas Party makes its way onto UK screens on 9th December 2016.

Ben-Hur Trailer

Here is the second trailer for Ben-Hur. The film is an adaptation of the 1880 Christian novel, like the three film versions that have come before. This version stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, and Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur hits UK screens on 7th September 2016.

T2 Teaser Trailer

This feels like it has come from nowhere. A belated sequel to Trainspotting, T2 reunites director Danny Boyle with the original cast, including Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller. T2 is set for release on 27th January 2016.

Blair Witch Trailer

Another unexpected sequel to a 1990s film. Horror movie The Woods was revealed to be Blair Witch, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch is directed by Adam Winged, who has had recent successes with You’re Next and The Guest. Blair Witch hits UK screens on 16th September 2016.

Nerve Clip

Nerve seems to the correct name for this film, is the above clip is anything to go by. The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who rose to fame through their film Catfish. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Nerve is out in UK cinemas on 11th August 2016.

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island is a reimagining of the cinema stalwart King Kong. The film has a more contemporary setting than the last version of the monster movie. Kong: Skull Island stars Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman. The film is set for release in 2017.

Wonder Woman Trailer

The film many comic book fans have been waiting decades for is almost here. After her appearance in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman finally gets her own film. Gal Gadot is joined by Chris Pine, Connie Nielson, and Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman will hit cinemas 2nd June 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer

After the character was such a big hit in The LEGO Movie, it is no surprise that Batman gets his own film. The LEGO Batman Movie looks like it will be as amusing as its predecessor, if the trailer is anything to go by. With the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson, The LEGO Batman Movie launches on to UK screens in February 2017.

Suicide Squad Video

This Suicide Squad video concentrates on Harley Quinn from the upcoming movie. The film features a roster of villains who are tasked with completing a mission for a US agent. Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis, Suicide Squad hits UK cinemas on 5th August 2016.