I didn’t know what to make of the advance word on Steve McQueen‘s Widows, but it sounded a little hazy and thereby gave me the willies. Well, the word-givers were dead fucking wrong — the complex, Chicago-based, super-riveting Widows is one of the best heist films I’ve ever seen. It grabs you from the get-go and never lets go. Thank God almighty that it’s intensely opposed to the aesthetic of the aggressively empty Ocean’s Eight (i.e., another all-women heist flick) and is much, much better than, say, Steven Soderbergh‘s Logan Lucky, which was diverting but now seems piffly in retrospect.

The basic Widows plot may sound like a lot to swallow (wives of four dead thieves without any criminal experience pull off a difficult robbery) but I believed every minute of it.

I swear to God that Widows is on the level of Rififi, The Asphalt Jungle, Nine Queens, Ronin and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels…that line of country. That’s not an opinion but a fucking fact. McQueen may have in fact been slumming when he made Widows, but he really knows how to shoot gutslam action, and his general aesthetic about setting movies “in the world of real, recognizable human beings” (as quoted in Owen Glieberman’s 9.9 Variety review) makes all the difference.

I don’t have much time to explain as I have to leave for a 6 pm screening of Barry JenkinsIf Beale Street Could Talk, but Widows is the shit. It’s about protagonists who are scared and desperate (including the secondary bad guys), and is full of echos and currents that reflect the dark urban nightmare of present-day Chicago, and that’s what gives it such a formidable punch.

And I’m dumbfounded, I must say, by Gleiberman’s lament that McQueen might have perhaps played his cards in a “more irresponsible” fashion — i.e., more whoo-whoo escapist. McQueen not doing this is what makes Widows such a real-world, high-voltage thriller. This movie does not fuck around.

The Wikipedia logline for McQueen’s film is incorrect, as it turns out. “Four armed robbers (Liam Neeson, Garret Dillahunt, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) are killed in a failed heist attempt, only to have their respective widows (Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez) step up to finish the job.” They do not “finish the job” — they pull off another job that their husbands never got around to.

Widows is based on Lydia LaPlante’s Widows mini-series that ran on British television in ’83 and ’85.

Widows also stars Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Lukas Haas and Brian Tyree Henry.

And yes, no question — Viola Davis is more or less a slamdunk for a Best Actress nomination. She grabs it, takes hold, wrestles it to the floor, opens herself up, toughs it out.