2013 saw Steve McQueen (no, not the legendary Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape actor) take Hollywood by storm. The director’s brutal and soul-crushing biopic 12 Years a Slave reaped countless accolades during the awards season, with McQueen cementing himself as one of the best upcoming filmmakers in Hollywood.

That was five years ago and, despite mostly flying under the radar since then, the anticipation for McQueen’s next film never really died down. Enter Widows, based on the ‘80s British mini-series and adapted as a feature by McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl).

The film revolves around a botched heist that leaves the grieving wives of the late criminals having to face the repercussions of their husbands’ crimes and the crime lord’s quest to regain his wealth and exact vengeance.

First and foremost, it’s clear that McQueen has struck gold once again. The way he directs a scene never fails to keep audiences on the edge of their seats – from big action sequences and intense mental games between characters, to one notable scene that simply follows a car trip from one neighbourhood to another, there’s rarely a moment of respite for the characters, even in their quietest moments.

This sense of dread isn’t made any easier as the character of Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) is introduced; a debt collector of sorts that gives No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh a run for his money as one of the more ruthless and sadistic antagonists to grace the screen.

The mounting tension and uncertainty is largely thanks to the staggering screenplay handcrafted with Flynn. Widows is at its best when it’s delving into the lives of its lead characters, played by Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez.

After a couple of brief scenes showing the mourning of their deceased husbands, they are immediately thrust into unknown territory – the reality of their debts sending them on unique paths towards the shared goal of freeing themselves of said debts, their past lives, and what has come to be expected of them. With standout performances from Davis, Debicki and a sinister Daniel Kaluuya, Widows boasts one of the finest ensemble casts in recent memory.

Widows is one of those rare films that could be marketed to almost any demographic. At its core is a gripping heist film that perfectly balances the needs of action-loving cinemagoers with those wanting to immerse themselves in a dramatic and detailed character study full of satisfying and unexpected arcs.

In cinemas: November 22, 2018
Starring: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez
Directed by: Steve McQueen

Read our interview with director Steve McQueen and the cast.