Widows UHD Review

Terrific and compelling film 4.5 Stars

Widows isn’t really a heist film, at least in the traditional sense. It’s far more compelling. The failed robbery creating the four widows serves as catalyst for their empowerment of self and command of their destinies, and does give rise to them planning their own heist. And, it’s all well staged, but the energy and drama we follow is in the pieces being assembled for the crime they must commit, rather than in the execution of that crime.

It’s important not to expect the trappings of a traditional heist film; rather, expect a compelling study of betrayal and independence, love and loss, and the journey of four women who will come to stand up and find more of themselves than they ever thought possible. In that, Widows is an exceptional film brimming with thoroughly compelling performances and a director willing to make interesting artistic choices along the way.

Widows (2018)
Released: 16 Nov 2018
Rated: R
Runtime: 129 min
Director: Steve McQueen
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Writer(s): Gillian Flynn (screenplay by), Steve McQueen (screenplay by), Lynda La Plante (based on "Widows" by)
Plot: Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: 84

Disc Information
Studio: Fox
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 10 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard with Slip Sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/05/2019
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4.5/5

“If this thing goes wrong, I just want my kids to know that I didn’t sit there and take it. I did something.”

Four robbers, led by a respected career criminal, Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson), stage a daring heist, but their crime goes awry and they die in the escape attempt. Rawling’s widow, Veronica (Viola Davis), is soon menaced in her grief by an angry crime figure, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), whose $2MM was stolen by her husband, and burned up with their demise. She has less than a month to return Manning’s money or not live to tell the tale. Veronica, with her late husbands detailed planned for his next robbery her only chance, connects with her fellow grieving widows to try to take charge of their destinies and steal their way out of a death sentence.

Widow’s is something special, with two of its most compelling attributes coming from the intriguing story, and, importantly, a collection of stellar performances. Based on a London-set 1983 British television series from Lynda La Plante, Director Steve McQueen, writing the screenplay with Gilliam Flynn, moved the setting to Chicago and the unique character of Chicago politics becomes a salient dimension. The story revolves around a failed robbery and a second robbery planned by novices, but the joy of this experience is in watching defined characters explore the moral boundaries of their existence, making choices for survival and control of their lives, good and bad, along the way. These are fascinating character journeys for the principle cast.

Director McQueen occasionally trades expressions of art for narrative momentum, but in the film’s context, the choices are welcome. His patience in letting the story unfold with consideration is admirable, setting the film apart from the mainstream and likely most expectations. That patience may frustrate moviegoers expecting a more playful or urgent heist drama, but, for me, it’s the reason the film works as well as it does. It allows the weight of moments to carry, and the dire and dangerous predicament of four women, to be felt more deeply.

Viola Davis’ Veronica is a terrific performance. Fragility, uncertainty, privilege and fear galvanize in her expressions and tears to form a resolve that breaks through in how she stands up, speaks to others, and moves from moment to moment. Davis, one of the most gifted actors of our generation, is surrounded by a beautiful cast with a multitude of strengths. Michelle Rodriguez’ portrayal of Linda, is strong. Reeling from the betrayal of her failure husband whose debts rob her of her business, she acts for the protection of her children and the reclaiming of her path to success. Elizabeth Debicki’s performance as the troubled Alice, abused by her late husband Florek (Jon Bernthal), is precise showcasing how out of her league and lost she is, and Debicki’s evolution to assertive and more in control and independent is very good. The fourth widow, Amanda, is played by Carrie Coon–who gives Amanda a worn, almost defeated sensibility as an overwhelmed mother to young children. This keeps her out of the plans to execute the robbery meaning a replacement person is needed. That person is found in Linda’s babysitter, Belle, played by Cynthia Ervo with certainty and vulnerability. These are the women we will follow into the bleakness of a robbery they feel ill-equipped to pull off, but are determined to do what they must do to survive the situation their late husbands left them in.

The film’s supporting players, from Robert Duvall and Colin Ferrell’s power-protective father/son duo, Tom and Jack Mulligan (with Ferrell’s Jack running for Alderman against Jamal Manning’s crime figure, looking to live a greater life of power), to the crime team of Brian Tyree Henry’s Jamal Manning, and a sinister, sick and brilliant Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme, delivering memorable performances. Liam Neeson’s duplicitous career criminal, Harry Rawlings, and his crew Florek (Bernthal), Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Jimmy (Coburn Goss), though brief in appearance, are well cast.

Widows patiently layers its story, with a few twists and turns, to a furious conclusion, carefully constructing its emotional and physically drama along the way. A heist movie with the central characters being women, and largely women of color, is so very welcome on the big screen. There’s a unique and freshness to the approach that makes me yearn for Hollywood to throw away gender norms in the kinds of stories that get made into films and the range of actors we see filling terrific roles.

Centered on betrayal, Widows takes a hundred shards of lies, and broken characters, and navigates a collection of complicated lives and situations, channeling anger and raw emotion into fighting chances of survival. It is, frankly, the kind of story we see in limited run television series where every single moment and decision is allowed to breathe a little more freely, but still works well in this cinematic version.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Widows was shot on film, framed at 2.39:1, and finished at 4K digital intermediate (DI). It features some stylized looks, crisp blue-tinged white tones for flashbacks, muted earthy and warmer browns, and a palette of greys from time to time that reinforce tone and emotional sentiment. While black levels are generally exquisite (check out the reflective bonnet on the limo, and even the deep black sweater Colin Farrell’s character wears in one scene), there are a few moments seem to have more grey-black than deeper blacks, though these could be more artistic choices at play. Night sequences, where most of the final act is set, are revealing of great detail through the higher clarity and HDR grading used.

Skin detail is sublime, aided by Director McQueen’s use of deep close-ups, and despite a more muted palette at times, color and color balance are very good.

Audio: 5/5

Largely a quiet, conversation driven film, Widows enjoys several bursts of action and the Dolby Atmos audio (which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those not Atmos equipped) supports the film perfectly throughout. When the scene calls for it, the audio explodes with the sounds of violence, and wraps fully around you. Hans Zimmer’s score is propulsive at times (lightly reminiscent of his Dunkirk and Inception scores.) It’s infrequently used, and deployed surgically to support what’s on screen. Interestingly, Zimmer worked with Stanley Myers, composer on the original 1983 Widows series.

Effective surround effects, measured use of quiet, crisp audio performance across the entire film make this one an understated winner.

Special Features: 2.5/5

While the 4K disc contains no special features, a small collection of extras are contained in the accompanying Blu-ray, including a better than expected 3-part documentary covering various aspects of production, with interviews. A gallery and theatrical trailer round out the collection.

Widows Unmasked: A Chicago Story – A three-part documentary:

  • Plotting The Heist: The Story
  • Assembling The Crew: Production
  • The Scene Of The Crime: Locations

Gallery

Theatrical Trailer

Overall: 4.5/5

Widows isn’t really a heist film, at least in the traditional sense. It’s far more compelling. The failed robbery creating the four widows serves as catalyst for their empowerment of self and command of their destinies, and does give rise to them planning their own heist. And, it’s all well staged, but the energy and drama we follow is in the pieces being assembled for the crime they must commit, rather than in the execution of that crime.

It’s important not to expect the trappings of a traditional heist film; rather, expect a compelling study of betrayal and independence, love and loss, and the journey of four women who will come to stand up and find more of themselves than they ever thought possible. In that, Widows is an exceptional film brimming with thoroughly compelling performances and a director willing to make interesting artistic choices along the way.

https://smile.amazon.com/Widows-Blu-ray-Steve-McQueen/dp/B07HSK38SR/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Widows+4k&qid=1551237647&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Published by

Neil Middlemiss

editor,member

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