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dir Steve McQueen
scr Gillian Flynn, Steve McQueen
prd Iain Canning, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Emile Sherman
with Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Carrie Coon, Lukas Haas, Garret Dillahunt, Jacki Weaver
release UK 6.Nov.18, UK 16.Nov.18
18/US Film4 2h09
Desperate housewives: Davis and Erivo
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Leave it to Steve McQueen to reinvent the heist caper as a socially aware comment on gender roles and the far reach of political corruption. It's so rare to see a thriller that engages us at every point on an emotional level that it's almost a struggle to know how to respond. Which of course makes it cinematically exhilarating. While each actor adds soulfulness to the film, McQueen tells the story with bristling skill.
After her husband Harry (Neeson) is killed when a heist goes wrong, Veronica (Davis) is paid a visit by the man he robbed: political candidate Jamal (Henry) and his thug brother Jatemme (Kaluuya) give her two weeks to return the $2 million he stole. So she turns to the other widows (Rodriguez and Debicki) for help, joined by the street-smart Belle (Erivo). Meanwhile, Jamal's opponent Jack (Farrell) is even more shady, son of a political veteran (Duvall) encircled by rumours of racism and bribery.
Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt deploys elaborate camerawork to capture scenes in ways that give telling insight into the characters and situation. Long swirling takes, unusual angles and crisp lighting continually reveal thoughts, feelings, twists and turns. Several sequences are flat-out spectacular, capturing thrills, humour and wrenching emotion at the same time. And the heist set-piece is unusually raw and earthy, both inventive and terrifying.
Davis anchors the film with a visceral performance as a woman grieving her husband while getting on with what she has to do. They also lost a son nearly a decade earlier, but once she gets her hands on her husband's notebook she is a woman with a mission. Debicki, Rodriguez and Erivo get strong scenes of their own: these are fiercely intelligent women who are underestimated by everyone around them. And each of the men shines as well; as with the women, their roles are complex and surprising.
There's so much to this film that it sometimes feels over-packed, grappling with so many important issues. But Flynn and McQueen's script leans toward nuance rather than sermonising, letting these ideas and issues wash through the story. This raises the stakes higher than virtually any thriller in recent memory, giving the movie a devastating sense of the life-or-death knife edge these women are walking. They may be desperate and frightened, but they know exactly what they're doing. And right to the very last frame, the film makes sure we remember that.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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