Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Widows, a contemporary crime thriller set in Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, that tells the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities, that take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2018
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 129 minutes
Genre: Thriller

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s):English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth DeBicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Written by: Gillian Flynn, Steve McQueen based on “Widows” by Lynda La Plante
Region Code: A

Release Date: February 5, 2019
"Left with Nothing. Capable of Anything"

“From Academy Award® Winner Steve McQueen*, the director of 12 Years a Slave, and from Gillian Flynn, the writer of Gone Girl, comes a powerful thriller with a stellar cast, including Oscar® Winner Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo. Four women — with nothing in common except a debt left by their dead husbands’ criminal acts — conspire to take fate into their own hands.” – 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

My Take:

I must admit that when I initially saw the trailer for Widows I rolled my eyes with skepticism. It looked like nothing more than a well-cast, formulaic heist/revenge thriller that had all the earmarks of a forgettable film. After hearing positives things about it from both critics and a few friends I went into viewing it with optimism.

Based on the popular U.K. television series of the same name, created by Lynda La Plante, Widows is a character study, in addition to being a crime drama/thriller. The plot is pretty straight forward, as described, and follows a group of women, from differing backgrounds, societal statuses and walks of life, who are suddenly thrust into a situation from which no one would think them capable of handling. They must, for their own reasons, succeed and in doing so emerge from the ashes of their previous lives, anew.

Widows was co-written by director Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn and contains a myriad of themes including politics, religion, class, race, criminality and mourning. I think the balance is handled pretty well over the film’s first two acts as the narrative’s slow burn carefully draws you the plight of these women, establishing definitive boundaries between the good, the bad and the ugly.

I was all in right up to the start of act three when they execute their plan. From that point onward the story takes a conventional turn where conveniences abound, implausibility reigns and drama/melodrama over steps. There are several interesting characters, one solid twist and a host of well-played moments that make Widows fun to watch. Daniel Kaluuya makes the most of every scene he is in and is simply terrific in the role of the film’s “heavy”.

I was completely put off by the anticlimactic handling of his final moment in the film during the last act. There were a few subplots introduced that needed to be better fleshed out, especially given how things turn out, which were left dangling or unexplained. So, while Widows didn’t finish as strongly as it started, it still made for an enjoyable and worthwhile film experience. Add to that a series of solid performances by Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Duvall, Brian Tyree Henry, and Cynthia Erivo and, you’ve got a solid genre entry with something to offer.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

The rating is for violence, language throu7ghout, and some sexual content/nudity.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
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Dolby Atmos Rating: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
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  • Entertainment factor: 

Widows comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless XXX that has an average bitrate of XXX Mbps.

Widows was shot on film and finished on a 4K DI for its presentation on Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Widows is a contemporary film that has a specific visual aesthetic which comes through quite naturally in this Ultra HD rendering. It’s a stylish visual film, that adheres to sepia tones and color grading, which ultimately leaves some sequences appearing less visually engaging than others. Color reproduction is consistent, with primaries like blue and red appearing richer, and more delineated. Secondary hues look great, although not appreciably better. The increase in resolution isn't always on display, but in general wide-angle, well-lit shots both interior and exterior look great. Close-ups tend to offer appreciable refinement and deeper resolvable texture on surfaces and physical features compared to the Blu-ray. The differences, while not staggering, are easily discernible.

The same is true when comparing the video's dynamic range. Exterior sequences offer the slightest hint of added punch which gives the image appreciable visual pop. Like the Blu-ray rendering, the darkened highlights in low-lit environs, can be hit or miss but it most respects, have appreciable dimension and resolvable detail. Fleshtones are reproduced beautifully, with a natural and pleasing tonality. Viewing Widows in Ultra HD didn’t make for an especially compelling viewing experience, however, I found it to be a complimentary improvement over the 1080p Blu-ray presentation.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety that made effective use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a blend of atmospherics and discrete effects. When applied it creates a discernible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Where this mix excels is in its use of the platform at ear level. There are a multitude of set pieces that show off the track’s blend of music and smaller object sounds that create an involving listening experience, that broadens the soundstage. I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere as well as the integration of discrete object placement. I think that it complimented the source material and drew me into the film when it mattered most.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
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  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Widows comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound.

This is an excellent high definition rendering that sports plenty of fine detail and crisp definition that provides discerning dimensional perspective. Colors range from warm and vivid to cool, reserved and almost tonally neutral. This is obviously a creative decision that draws definitive visual boundaries and works quite well. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation. Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages. The various wide-angle shots of the shooting locations look terrific. Other than some innate softening, I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous compression related noise. Widows looks great on Blu-ray.

This is primarily a dialog driven film however there are elements in the film that require use of the entire system so its ability to clearly render them is essential. Dialog is reproduced with transparent realism and lucid texture as it is appropriately balanced within the front soundstage. The surround mix utilizes the entire platform to recreate the many acoustic sounds associated with the environments portrayed onscreen. The rear channels contain a mixture of spatial ambience/musical extension as well as directional panning cues that effectively support the front soundstage. When called for there is a solid low end associated with the sequences involving action/gunfire/explosions. This is a complimentary audio presentation that mates well with the source material.

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Widows Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Widows Blu-ray
    • Widows Unmasked: A Chicago Story
    o Plotting The Heist: The Story
    o Assembling The Crew: Production
    o The Scene Of The Crime: Locations
    • Gallery
  • Digital Copy
Final Thoughts:

Based on the popular U.K. television series of the same name, created by Lynda La Plante, Widows is a solid contemporary heist thriller with a far-reaching narrative that doesn’t quite bring all of its elements to fruition in a thoroughly compelling manner. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring excellent overall technical merits that compliment its thematic tone. Widows is easily worth the cost of a rental and perhaps qualifies as a blind buy for those that enjoy its cinematic flavor.
Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling