Widows (2018)

I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it. I mean, look at it:

  • Directed by Steve McQueen
  • Stars Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya.
  • Written by Gillian Flynn.
  • Great story.

So I’ve been following this film for a while, I didn’t bother looking for a trailer as I already knew I wanted to see it (and for some reason the trailer wasn’t played at local cinema), so I went in not sure what to expect exactly, but I knew it would be good.

And it is good. That’s the problem, it’s just “good”. It’s not great, it’s not impressive, it’s just good. I mean, it’s solid, and it’s great from a technical and performance standpoint, It’s just not a great heist movie. Heist movies should, at their very core, be fun. There should be either an air of complete chaos, or the feeling that everything is so tightly interwoven that if one thing changed, everything collapsed. This has none of that. The heist itself never really feels in jeopardy. You never really feel like it’s not going to succeed, this would be forgivable if there was joy in seeing it happen, but there’s non of that either. It happens, but it’s not a great set-piece when it does happen. There’s no art to the scene itself and it feels….hollow.

Actually the entire film feels like that, there’s no emotional resonance to it. Also, it’s way too long. It’s over 2 hours long and there’s a lot of fluff. There’s a “twist” in it which seems to only exist to give someone more screen time and to surprise the audience, if you cut it out it wouldn’t really effect the story that much. Actually there’s a lot here that adds nothing to the plot.

Now onto the good: the performances are superb. Daniel Kaluuya is so convincing as a complete monster that you begin to suspect he might be one in real life, but nope, acting! Viola Davis does most of the films emotional heavy lifting, and when it doesn’t work it’s not because of her, her part in them can’t be faulted. And Elizabeth Debicki plays her part like her character is a flower made of iron.

The directing: it’s okay. There’s no shots that will really stick in your mind in a positive way. There’s a particularly weird scene where they film a car journey by placing a static camera on the front and pointing it slightly to the side so you see what they’re driving past, but you can’t see the people who are talking. It’s kind of weird as it detracts from the dialogue. It’s like it was done just to be a good shot, without any thought of the storytelling language of shot construction.

I don’t get it as McQueen is usually REALLY good at emotional storytelling and shot construction, and in this he seems to have slightly wilted at both.

So yeah, it’s hard to recommend this film, watch it when it’s shown on ITV next Christmas.

The Commuter (2018)

I first saw the trailer for this late last year. I wasn’t really taken with this, it seemed kind of unoriginal and like typical Liam Neeson fare, but not good Liam Neeson, bland Neeson. After seeing it I can confirm it is pretty standard. Liam Neeson plays a recently fired insurance agent who used to a cop but is now gun shy after years of dealing with gangs of New York. He has a lot of debts so is understandably not in high spirits when he gets the news he’s fired. He’s worried about how he will pay them all off, he’s used to being the big man for his family. He is approached by an unknown woman (played by Vera Farmiga from The Conjuring movies) asking him to plant a tracking device on a random person, but not telling him who, offering him a lot of money to do so. He finds this a bit suspect but then discovers that it’s genuine and he really is going to get a lot of money. He’s sworn to silence can’t tell anybody about the mission or bad things will happen. At first, he doesn’t believe them and he tells someone he knows. But then he watches him leave the train and suddenly the other man is killed. It turns out he is being watched by someone to make sure he does what he should, and if he doesn’t people get killed by some kind of phantom menace. He starts to realise his family is in danger when a monster calls his phone and threatens him, saying they’re going to take his family from outside their home. In the end it turns out his friend who’s still in the police is responsible for it. OMG who could have guessed that? Apart from everybody who has ever seen a film and knows something about storytelling, or anybody who saw the trailer where one of the final scenes was shown (seriously guys, stop doing this. What’s the point of attempting tension in your movies if every third person already knows how it ends due to the trailer?). The police think he’s responsible for all the deaths throughout the film and is holding everyone hostage, so he now also has to clear his name whilst he’s under suspicion. But luckily the truth comes shining through and it’s all happiness and joy from that moment on (apart from maybe for the dead people).

The fight scenes were okay. They didn’t play Neeson of as some invincible badass, instead, they showed him as kind of old, and dependent on his experience and knowledge. One thing that does let them down is the incredibly ropey CGI. It looks like the kind of thing you get on a PlayStation 2 game. One scene, in particular, features him taking a leap of faith and jumping from a moving train in a scene that looks so bad it’s hard to decide whether to respond with laughter or silence. In a year which the dead pool sequel is coming out, cinema has to be more inventive. Either that or you need non-stop action that never relents,

Yes, I am well aware this was not the easiest blog to read. That this was just one idea run into the ground, and not even an original one. But if this film can’t be bothered to come up with anything original, I don’t see why I should.