Viola Davis

REVIEW: Widows (2018)

Four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead criminal husbands, take their lives into their own hands as they conspire to steal the money they need to repay the men who are out to hurt them, and to make a better life for themselves.

Directed by Steve McQueen who cowrote the screenplay with Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl and many other twisty stories, Widows is a tense heist thriller that never lacks in character and world building.

Widows grabs your attention straightaway, with the heist that goes wrong and leads to four career criminals dying. From then it’s an exploration of the people who are left behind and their grief and loss of what to do next. Viola Davis’s steely Veronica is the one who brings the widows together. She has plans left to her by her late husband (Liam Neeson) and needs help in order to get the money to stop those who wish to hurt her.

All four leading ladies are magnificent. Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda is struggling to provide for her young children, Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice has no career prospects, and Cynthia Erivo’s Belle is working multiple jobs to keep herself and her family afloat. They are four very different characters but they come together with one goal in mind. That’s not to say they don’t have their disagreements, but together they find a strength and determination that some of them didn’t know they had.

Set in Chicago with a backdrop of criminal activity, by politicians and more traditional criminals alike, Widows manages to be a compelling story about interesting and layered women while also managing to bring in race, politics and class into the story. These elements flesh out the Chicago setting. Colin Farrell plays Jack Mulligan, a career politician and whose family has been elected to office for generations, while Brian Tyree Henry plays Jamal Manning, a man who has criminal connections but is from the neighboured he’s campaigning to represent. These two men each have underhand dealings but they approach illegal activity, politics and violence in very different ways.

While Widows is building towards a heist, it’s the characters themselves and the stages they have to go through to prepare for the heist that’s the main focus of the film. That doesn’t make it, or the final crime, any less satisfying. You learn about these women, the hardships they’ve faced, and the forces that are out to stop them, and you soon realise that nothing is going to stop them from doing what they set out to do. 5/5.

REVIEW: Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide-Squad-posterSecret government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together a team of supervillains to take on a dangerous covert mission in exchange for shorter prison sentences.

Suicide Squad tries to juggle a lot. There’s a lot of characters so it begins with a bit of backstory for more of the major ones, namely Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) courtesy of Amanda Waller and a case file. The rest of them have less than a minute backstory and trying to set up all these characters this way did make the film slow to start. However, when you think the backstories are done and you can focus on the main plot of the movie, i.e. the mission, there’s flashbacks sporadically throughout the film that really interrupts the flow of the whole thing.

As well as the mission at hand, there’s also the Joker (Jared Leto) in the background, popping up every now and then to cause problems and provide more of a backstory for Harley Quinn. Much has been made of this new Joker and while he is naturally a lot different to previous incarnations, he is just OK. He is more of a gangster and his voice and laugh does sound odd and not necessarily in a good way but he is not on screen enough to really make much of a last impression.

The soundtrack to Suicide Squad is notable but not in a good way. It’s full of memorable songs ranging from Eminem to Queen and even features Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum – that one really doesn’t fit in the film. It’s as if the filmmakers wanted to have music queues for certain characters and just shoved in as many cool songs as they could think of. It was jarring and didn’t work for a lot of the film.

Suicide Squad is an entertaining film for the most part but it’s not as fun as the trailers make it out to be. Also while you don’t need jokes in every superhero film, any attempt at humour in Suicide Squad fell flat. Lines of dialogue or moments that were clearly set up to cause a reaction from the audience just don’t. These characters are an eclectic bunch and with a good script they could easily have bounced off each other and had some humorous moments or lines but there was nothing.

The big problem with Suicide Squad is by the end of the film, it wants you to feel like these characters all care about each other and even go as far to see themselves as a family unit, but it doesn’t do enough to make you feel that way. The film keeps focusing on the mission rather than the characters on the mission. Deadshot and Harley Quinn are the most fleshed out on the team and they actually have multiple interactions so you can see their relationship grow but all other characters are secondary and barely have any lines between them.

Suicide Squad is OK. The action sequences are entertaining but the film does nothing to make you care about these characters and that’s where it really falls down. 2/5.

V is for Viola Davis

viola-davisViola Davis is an incredibly talented actress and I love the things she says about women and people of colour in the film industry and how tough it can be for them. Women standing up for other women is my favourite thing.

I’ve realised that I’ve talked about The Help (2011) a lot during this A-Z challenge because a few of the women I’ve chosen to talk about have been in that film. Viola Davis played Aibileen Clark a strong woman whose mantra of “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” to young Mae Mobley are words to live by. Prisoners (2013) is a great, suspenseful film and Viola Davis is brilliant as a worried mother about her children – everyone is great in that film and while Viola has a smaller part compared to some of the others in the cast, she makes every moment on screen count.

As I’ve said before I’m terrible at watching TV shows but I’ve heard nothing but great things about How to Get Away with Murder and Viola Davis’s performance. One day I will get around to watching it.

Viola Davis is going to be in DC’s Suicide Squad (2016) and I know nothing about the characters but her (and Will Smith’s) involvement has definitely got me interested.