Action-packed and filled to the brim with comic relief, Black Widow is the movie blockbuster of the summer.
This review of Black Widow does not contain spoilers — the MCU film will be released on Disney+ and theatres on July 9.
If video killed the radio star, then Black Widow may have killed the movie theatre. If you can find a summer blockbuster this good streaming, simultaneously coming to Disney+ on July 2nd, why go to the theatre to watch Diesel and company jump the shark for the ninth time? Action-packed and filled to the brim with comic relief, Black Widow is the movie blockbuster of the summer.
Set at some point after Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johanson, aka Black Widow) has now taken a sabbatical from all the Avenger infighting. She is now a freelance operative somewhere in New York. As the movie begins, however, we see a bit of her origin story.
Natasha and her sister, Yelena, are raised in Ohio by her mother (Rachel Weisz) and father (David Harbour, priceless here). They are playing Americans, living a happy life until they are forced to go back to the USSR because their mission is complete. Except, the kids are then gifted to the KGB like they meant nothing to their parents. As she defects, she is forced later to confront her past and the family she once knew.
Director Cate Shortland, working with an excellent script from Jac Schaeffer (WandaVision) and Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby), was a risky pick to helm this project, but it paid off handsomely. She trades in her workbench of independent dramatic thrillers for a Marvel film that balances its relentless action with just the perfect amount of humor. It’s almost a coping skill for Natasha and Yelena (played as an adult by Florence Pugh) after their childhood abandonment and torture-trained in the KGB’s Red Room.
The credit should go to its fantastic cast. Johanson and Pugh’s chemistry is off the charts here. They play lost siblings and not wasting a breath trying to one-up each other in some way. Combining that with the impressive stunts and fight scenes, they are a wonderful duo. The same goes for Harbour and Weisz. Everyone’s comic timing is impeccable, even more so when all four are together on screen.
Yet, Harbour’s Alexi stands out among this talented group. I’m not sure I’ve watched a more perfect supporting comedic turn in action or dramatic films. It’s so good, my Harbour for Best Supporting Actor campaign starts as soon as this review is published. That certainly won’t happen, but it should. If not, I’ll settle for an Alexi Disney+ spin-off. The sooner, the better.
Black Widow does have its tenuous moments. The villains are underdeveloped. You may say Winstone is perfectly cast as Dreykov, but it’s so very over-the-top, it turns amusing, but not in a good way. Yelena’s setup to the plot as an adult is brusque (not to mention when they reunite) but recovers nicely. The film could have cut down a good 15 minutes of its 139-minute running time. Also, the final act’s action scene is strangely similar and feels like it was lifted from Winter Soldier.
These are all minor infractions, however. Even if the film feels out of place in the timeline (it’s an obvious setup for Pugh’s breakout character, Yelena), Black Widow rarely has any letdown. The relentless action, bone-crunching stunts, and comic tone are a burst of summer refreshment. By the time the 24th notch in the Marvel bedpost ends, you’ll be asking yourself, “Who needs an army of men when you have these women?” Oh, and David Harbour, of course.