London Film Festival 2018: Viola Davis steals scenes in Steve McQueen’s crime heist ‘Widows’

The 2018 BFI London Film Festival kicked off on October 10 with Steve McQueen‘s “Widows.” This is the British director’s first film since “12 Years a Slave,” which won the Best Picture Oscar four years ago. McQueen lost Best Director to Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) who also returns to the race this year with “Roma,” which will screen later in the festival.

The tone of “Widows” is serious throughout, and the pacing of the plot is thoughtful rather than the raciness you might expect from a ‘heist’ film. You have to concentrate, however, more than you may expect with a film of this genre. It’s not the definition of an ‘easy watch,’ but, then again, it’s not trying to be. Think of McQueen’s new film as a thriller with a brain. At the press screening, there were a couple of audible gasps made in key places which, no doubt, would have pleased McQueen and co.

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In particular, every scene with Daniel Kaluuya was gold. This British import contended in Best Actor last year for his breakout role in “Get Out,” He could well sneak into the supporting actor race and would be more of a sure thing if his part were a little larger.

Davis is all but certain to reap a Best Actress bid. Her name in the end credits was met with several whoops and cheers; she is that popular and, as always, her performance was excellent. She teams up with another well-respected black director here, and her performance is every bit as powerful. This time, however, she swaps the raw emotions on display in “Fences” for a far fiercer display as a woman forced to take control of her own circumstances. Currently, she is fifth on our odds charts, just behind Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” and just ahead of Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma.” Davis is a three-time Oscar-nominee and won for her supporting turn in Denzel Washington‘s “Fences.”

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McQueen, however, may struggle to earn directing and producing nominations in this very competitive year. He is down in 10th on our Best Director odds charts. Likewise, the film is in the 10th slot on our Best Picture chart. His consolation prize may be to share in a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination.

He and “Gone Girl” writer Gillian Flynn adapted Lynda La Plante‘s 1980 TV series. Their film, which encompasses a lot of different characters with unique personalities, manages not to sideline any of them. Rather, it gives each of them a chance to shine. The plot, too, keeps the audience intrigued throughout and has twists aplenty. “Widows” is sixth on our Best Adapted Screenplay odds chart, behind “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” in fifth place.

Where his film will do really well, is at SAG. Davis has won a whopping five of her eight SAG races.  Kaluuya could appear, too. And a Best Ensemble nomination would make sense. “Widows” features a large cast of well-known actors and actresses and they each get a turn in the spotlight.

The expansive A-list cast includes Liam Neeson as Harry Rawlings, Veronica’s husband; “Daredevil” “The Punisher’s” Jon Bernthal as Neeson’s fellow gang member, Florek; Colin Farell as politician Jack Mulligan; and Oscar-winner Robert Duvall as Mulligan’s father. Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki star as the two other mourning wives, Linda and Alice, respectively, coerced into working with Veronica, while Jacki Weaver features as the latter’s overbearing mother. Filling out the cast are Brian Tyree Henry from “Atlanta” as Jack Mulligan’s rival and Carrie Coon, of “Fargo” and “Gone Girl” fame, as Amanda.

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