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Film Review: Black Widow

Director:    Cate Shortland

Cast:    Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, William Hurt

Rating:    M

Running Time:     135

Australian Distributor:       Walt Disney Studios


Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff has been a staple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe nearly since its inception. Her first solo outing aptly titled “Black Widow” like all large films in 2020 was delayed, but more so, this movie feels like it’s coming more than a decade later than it should have. Giving a major player in the MCU their first solo outing, after having already killed off the character in the present time-line seemed like a waste of time. That was my impression going into this one, and topped with some mild MCU fatigue, I wasn’t expecting much from seeing a story I assumed I already knew. 

However, that wasn’t the case. Taking place between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” it does deliver a smaller story set during the time Romanoff was on the run. But it wasn’t the traditional origin story. It flashes on the beginnings of the character, and it also uses this as the foundation for the plot. Yet the plot-line itself is able to feel a bit unique, and there is plenty of emotional layering to invest in between all the amazingly orchestrated action-sequences. All of which resulted in a movie I enjoyed much more than I was expecting to.

There is plenty of dramatic tension and character moments to craft a plot that has immediate ramifications, without necessarily having lasting ramifications. It’s a smaller movie and there is a Phase One flavour and atmosphere that I very much enjoyed. It’s gritty and simple in its structuring, but the performances, and a collection of awesome action scenes create a movie that you can sit back and have plenty of fun with. It has bits of effective humour to break all the tension and the emotional weight at just the right times. With Cate Shortland’s direction showcasing an artistic eye during both the climatic movements and the quiet character driven ones.   

Something else this movie has going for it was the casting. We all know what Johansson will deliver as Romanoff. But the performances from Pugh, Harbour, and Weisz deliver all the personality needed to create appeal in this pseudo-family. Throughout this movie you get to know who these people are, what drives them, what connects them, and it all flows nicely from this collection of performances. I loved Pugh as Yelena Belova. She was charming and brash and tough, yet vulnerable all at the same time in places, and Pugh was fantastic in capturing it all. Including a charming chemistry with Johansson that really propels the engagement while watching.

The stunt-work and fight-choreography adds plenty of visual appeal to the action. The set-pieces were climactic and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s an appealing blend of fighting, gun-play, and larger set-pieces that gradually escalate. It finally felt like a Marvel movie that broke free of the recent formula a bit, and I can always appreciate that.

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