By Samantha Ofole-Prince
At first glance, a heist movie may seem an odd choice for Steve McQueen given his previously helmed flicks, which include the political drama Hunger and the award-winning slave flick 12 Years a Slave. There’s never been a reason to think the British director would be interested in a Stateside-based heist flick, but the set-up certainly offers an explanation as the story offers a twist on the typical heist film in that each character that intersects comes from different ethnic, financial and social background.
Set in contemporary Chicago amidst a time of political and societal turmoil, Academy-Award winning actress Viola Davis leads the powerhouse cast as Veronica Rawlins, a widow who is forced to pick up the pieces of her life after her husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), is killed in a failed robbery. With mounting debts and an unscrupulous mob seeking to collect, she decides to finish the task he was supposed to commit with the other widows of Harry’s criminal cohorts.
It’s a brilliant thriller that tackles love, politics, religion, class, race, and criminality. The widows who have nothing to lose include Michelle Rodriguez as Linda, who is struggling to keep her family and dress shop afloat after her husband’s death, Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Alice the Polish immigrant and the most sheltered of the widows and Cynthia Erivo who rounds off the cast as the street savvy Belle, an ally that steps in to help the women in their quest.
A female driven drama with a middle age Black female lead, it’s the kind of twisty, cerebral thriller rarely seen onscreen and the brilliance of the film isn’t just in its clever plotting, but in the colorful characters and their interactions.
Despite being a caper drama, the film is not marred in movie effects and what McQueen offers is smart high-concept escapism with a love story between Davis and Neeson at the center of it.
Colin Farrell plays a politician who weaves into the widows’ master plan. Brian Tyree Henry (Jamal) plays his political opponent in Chicago’s improvised 18th Ward and a man to whom Veronica discovers, Harry owes money, and Daniel Kaluuya is his sadistically evil brotherJatemme who is responsible for muscling in on Veronica to collect the money Harry owes Jamal.
Mournful and angry but ever so exhilarating, Widows treats the women’s actions with a mixture of moral weight and satisfying catharsis. We’re convinced their characters to have no other recourse but to perform a heist especially after Jatemme threatens Veronica.
Strong performances, believable characters, and an interesting and well-paced premise keep you compelled throughout and although it has real tension it finds places to interject a little humor.
Widows is an enjoyable and sophisticated heist movie which is so expertly done that it’s certainly McQueen’s best film to date.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Girl power is on the rise, and this movie is being released at the perfect time. A strong female character that stands up for those who need help. With a great cast with strong performances and excellent cinematography, it’s a shame the film suffers from pacing issues. There are some superb action scenes and some good character development but the spaces in between drags and water downs all of the storytelling. It plays like an action story interspersed with a Sweden Travel Vlog.
This is a new story outside of the original trilogy created by Stieg Larsson. He wanted to do a 10 book series but died in 2004. David Lagercrantz picks up in book 4, and his story holds true to the spirit of the original trilogy. The film captures that but loses its way in execution.
Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is a computer hacking vigilante who is brilliant, strong, independent, and will not give up. She is contracted to steal a program by its creator, Fans Balder (Stephen Merchant) because it is too dangerous for humanity. She accepts the job but is set up by an organized gang known as the Spiders. They steal the program from her, and she is now out to complete her contract.
Claire Foy (The Crown, First Man) completely embodies the strength and broody nature of Lisbeth. She is perfect for the role. Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Selma) plays a special agent in pursuit of Lisbeth, who ends up working with her. He adds a lot of depth to a supporting role. I could stand to see a spin-off with just him.
A recurring character is Mikael Blomkvist who is the journalist who writes about Lisbeth. He was a pivotal character in the previous films but is reduced to set dressing in this story. He is played by Sverrir Gudnason (Borg vs. McEnroe, Gentlemen) who did great but the character seemed like Lisbeth was the only thing he wrote about. Aside for a few plot points and being a quasi-love interest, he seemed to be a throwaway character.
The problems with the pacing come from shooting more establishing shots and focusing on more details that were needed. Waiting for the bad guys to show up and shots of the very wintery Sweden landscape interspaced with flashbacks to a story that was unfolding as events in the current timeline took place. A tighter story would have made this a more engaging film.
If they what to make 10 of these, they have a lot of suitable material to work with as long as they focus on keeping the action and story balance right. This could be more engaging with better timing. They have a rock-solid character and now is the perfect time to bring her to the screen. She is the embodiment of female power fighting for people who can’t fight for themselves and exacting revenge for wrongs that are kept in the shadows.
I just hope they can get the formula right or the only fight they will be fighting for is the top of the $5 DVD pile at Walmart.
“It’s A Story About Humanity,” Says Overlord Star Jovan Adepo
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures
2018 is proving to be a standout year for Jovan Adepo who made his first studio feature film debut opposite Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in the award-winning film Fences. Since then, the young actor has starred opposite Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in Darren Aronofsky feature Mother and had roles in Sorry for Your Loss, HBO’s The Leftovers and Season Two of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.
In his latest role, the Afro-British actor who can also be seen in Ava DuVernay’s upcoming Netflix series Central Park Five plays the lead role of U.S. Army Pvt. Boyce and is part of a team of American paratroopers who invade Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission.
“They are given a mission to drop into this French village and to take out an element of the German military but are presented with another element of the military they didn't-except to encounter and they have to do their best to get the mission done,” shares Adepo who delivers an understated performance in this starring role.
Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a church, the desperate soldiers who range from terrified inductees to war-weary veterans, join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower. But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies who are part of a human experiment and have extraordinary abilities.
A classic World War II movie meshed with a monster horror genre, it’s a thrilling, pulse-pounding action adventure with a twist. In the first half of the movie, audiences are introduced to the various young soldiers who give viewers a reason to care about the characters and develop some empathy for the soldiers who are presented as underdogs before the film takes a terrifying shift from military adventure to sci-fi horror. The intrinsically frightening nature and horrors of WWII combat certainly helps smooth the transition as it doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch when introduced to the fantastical elements.
“Many are seasoned soldiers,” continues Adepo, “and my character Boyce is trying to fit in where he can. When you first meet him, you’re not sure if he’s even capable of surviving the mission. Not because he’s physically unable to, but because he’s just cut from a different cloth than the others. That’s what makes him such an interesting character to follow and root for.”
Directed by Australian filmmaker Julius Avery and produced by J.J. Abrams (10 Cloverfield Lane), one would certainly expect a film about American World War II soldiers to feature a white cast, but for Abrams, populating the film with a diverse cast was important as it allowed the production to cast a wider net in search of the best actors for the roles such as Adepo.
“Having the opportunity to be a part of it was something that I took very seriously,” adds the actor. “From day one when I came down to read the script and audition for it, I wanted to do the best job that I could and put my best foot forward for the biggest thing I enjoy about a J.J. Abrams movie – the element of surprise. They have very interesting stories and complex characters. It was an opportunity I wasn’t going to let slip from my hands.”
A men-on-a-mission movie, “Overlord is a wildly entertaining World War II movie with some humor sprinkled in along with emotion and sentiment.
“It is a story about humanity. It’s about the preservation of humanity and verdict of the underdog and with two very specific genres that have been seamlessly meshed. People will go in not knowing quite what to expect. It is very much an action adventure but there are lots of things that can and will go wrong in this mission.”