Widows is the best heist thriller since Ocean's Eleven
Don't be fooled, this is not the movie you were expecting.
Trash is not automatically a bad thing. Trash, when made correctly, can be the most entertaining thing in the world, and writer Gillian Flynn has a great way with trash.
Deep down, despite the high IQ, Gone Girl was a trashy novel about the Ultimate Crazy Girlfriend, but paired with the uniquely chilly visual style of David Fincher, and the end result was fantastic.
Same went for Sharp Objects, a murder mystery tied up in the central character's disturbing personal history, which was a perfect match for Jean-Marc Vallee's oppressive direction.
Gillian Flynn's trash is high-end, whip-smart, pulp fiction, airport-bought and consumed in one pool-side sitting, but it requires the right director to make sure the trashier elements don't dominate, which is why you'll never hear anyone talking about the Charlize Theron-starring Dark Places, which director Gilles Paquet-Brenner failed to get a proper handle on.
Which is why, while it does seem like an immediately weird decision to have the Oscar-winning director of powerful dramas like Hunger and Shame take on a heist movie, it turns out that Steve McQueen is a perfect fit of Flynn's latest brilliant trash, Widows.
Clip via 20th Century Fox
Initially, it seems like the plot set-up is simple enough: a group of criminals are killed by the police, the fiery fatal explosion taking $2 million up in flames with them. Trouble is, they stole that money from someone they really shouldn't have, and now those criminals still-grieving widows have been left with that bill. However, their late husbands had the plans already laid out for their next big heist, so the ladies band together to pull it off themselves.
Unlike the usual heist movie plot, this isn't fuelled by looking cool, or doing it because it is fun, or vague revenge. These women have to pull this off, or they're all going to die.
Added in to that mix is the influence of political power, racism, sexism, heartbreak, mourning, and the suffocating greed and intoxicating need at the centre of 'The American Dream', and this is more than just a group of attractive people and an intricate, Swiss-watch series of events leading up to One Last Job.
Instead, what is normally a frivolously fun movie is given huge dramatic weight thanks to incredible performances by Viola Davis (The Help), Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From UNCLE), Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times At El Royale), and Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious) as the new criminals. Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Jon Berenthal (Netflix's The Punisher), and Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) as the men in the past, present, and future that have turned the widows' lives into waking nightmares.
Plus, we have McQueen. We knew that he wouldn't just give us another run-of-the-mill heist movie, and that is apparent from the very opening scene, involving a panicky car chase and shoot out, filmed almost entirely from inside the back of a van. Everything feels slightly off, as the entire movie seems familiar but skewed slightly, keeping us on a back-foot throughout as we're never completely sure what might happen next.
Which is also why a lot of people might be unimpressed.
Anyone coming to this expecting the purely emotional fallout of death that you might normally expect from a McQueen movie will be disappointed. Ditto anyone who might be hoping for a bit of Hollywood fluff, along the lines of Ocean's 8.
This is a heist movie from the director of 12 Years A Slave and the writer of Gone Girl. You should already be expecting the unexpected here. Going in with that mentality and you'll come out having enjoyed one of the best thrillers of the year.
Widows is in Irish cinemas from Wednesday 7 November.