A stand alone film for the Avenger character from which this flick takes its name, Black Widow is thankfully not just another in a long line of generic superhero movies. Instead it has enough action to please die hard fans and depth/story to thrill those new to the character. Plus, a stylish look and a game cast truly make Black Widow something special and definitely what I call a thrilling film.
We begin with Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) from authorities for actions committed while she was an Avenger and hiding out in Norway, aided by resourceful ally Rick Mason(O.T. Fagbenle) . Out of nowhere she is sent an antidote by someone she hasn’t seen since childhood, her “sister” Yelena(Florence Pugh) . It transpires that they were raised by “parents “ in Ohio while they acquired intel as spies. Later both girls were taken for training in the Red Room, where they ended up separated but highly skilled in combat. It was controlled by the cruel and power-crazed Dreykov(Ray Winstone) who Natasha believes is dead but is in fact alive. The two women, who were raised like sisters , have animosity towards each other at first which begins to thaw once the true scope of what they are fighting comes into view. It transpires that the legion of Black Widows that are from the Red Room are controlled via sinister means like a chip in the neck that renders the wearer completely under the power of another. Yelena was exposed to the antidote which broke the control over her before she went rogue. There is also a being by the name of Taskmaster , who can mimic the movements and skills of others who is in search of the antidote to bring it back to Dreykov. After breaking their surrogate “father” Alexei( David Harbour) out of jail where he has been still trying to capture his glory days as a hero, Natasha and Yelena meet up with their “mother” Melina(Rachel Weisz), who also has important information having worked for years as a sleeper agent. It’s going to take all of their resources to take down the powerful and his brainwashed ‘Black Widows’ so it’s all hands on deck in this fight to avert global disaster courtesy of Dreykov and for Natasha to atone and learn from her past.
I’ll admit that I’m not what you’d call the biggest fan of Marvel Movies . But I know enough about them to pass muster and have some understanding of them. I’m not opposed to the films as I find them quite entertaining, I’ve just lost count of how many there are. To be honest, while a bit of knowledge is good, Black Widow stands well enough as a stand-alone feature and you can go in uninitiated . Director Cate Shortland shows a skilful talent for blending kinetic action, snippets of humour and set pieces with a story boasting more depth that just your standard superhero movie . If anything, although definitely boasting tropes of a superhero film, it also functions as a cracking and twisty espionage thriller with more than a little sprinkling of Bondian greatness. Being a huge Bond fan, seeing various nods here had the inner geek in me thrilled and I’m sure it’ll do the same for the audience who sees this action packed movie. Keep an eye out for the sequence in which break out of a snowy prison. To say it’s epic is an understatement as it’s so outrageously entertaining . Shortland is clearly a director who has a handle on things and keeps Black Widow flowing to stunning effect. A slight sag in pace can be forgiven in a film like this that sweeps you along with action and surprising depth. Black Widow is also very stylish to look at, especially in the action sequences and a grainy, snappy title sequence of being indoctrinated into becoming set to the sound of a haunting cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. And speaking of music, a grandiose and thundering score of action, peppered with Russian chanting, is another highlight in a stellar production that surprised me in how much I enjoyed it.
The cast is where it’s at when it comes to Black Widow. Scarlett Johansson can play the part in her sleep, yet she still displays various facets that are new and revealing. Whether it be in the action scenes or emotional moments of attempting to reconcile her past , Johansson is nothing short of fantastic at shading her part and providing backbone to an already popular character. The always watchable Scarlett Johansson is what I’d call perfect casting having played the part for so long and continuing to impress us. Ably backing her up and burning up a storm is the ever talented Florence Pugh portraying sister figure Yelena . Pugh nails the feisty, foul mouthed and quick witted Yelena while showcasing a buried resentment and hurt at realising that her past was so controlled and not what she thought. As a result much in the same way that Johansson explores Natasha , Pugh crafts a multi-layered character in Yelena that you truly root for. It helps that both actresses convince as sister figures slowly regaining trust after being separated for so long. The chemistry between the two is evidently strong and a valuable asset to the film. David Harbour provides much in the way of laughs as the washed up superhero dad to the two leading ladies. He’s comically endearing as a character and Harbour finds the genuine feeling of pathos beneath the clownish exterior. Rachel Weisz adds layers of complexity to a woman who seems sightly cowardly yet warm in the beginning before revealing a vast intelligence and ruthless determination. The wonderful Weisz makes every moment she’s on the screen count with her performance. O.T. Fagbenle provides nice support as a loyal friend and helper to Natasha, who trades good quips and witty banter along the way. The only people who get somewhat shortchanged and not given that much to work with are Ray Winstone and Olga Kurylenko. Both do what they can with their roles, I just would have preferred a bit more of them and more material for them to work
A thrilling superhero/spy-action film of great performances, twisty story and oodles of style, Black Widow is what I’d define as high powered entertainment and a film that has something for everyone to enjoy.