The Morning After: Jul. 19, 2021

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Black Widow

A decade after she should have already gotten her own standalone film, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow gets more than her due in this mixture of spy thriller and Marvel Cinematic Universe feature. Johansson is joined by the estimable talents of Oscar nominee Florence Pugh, Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, and Emmy nominee David Harbour along with Ray Winstone, Olga Kurylenko, and Oscar-winner William Hurt in a small role as MCU-recurring character Secretary Ross.

Set just after events in Captain America: Civil War in which the Avengers have broken up due to internecine struggles regarding the decision to abide by the terms of the Sakovia Accords, which was designed to out all superheroes and require them to register with the government. The film opens in a small Ohio town where Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) lives with her Russian-spy family comprised of her dad Alexei (Harbour); mom Melina (Weisz); and younger sister Yelena (Pugh). After escaping with a particularly juicy piece of intel, the family flees to Cuba where they are split up at the behest of the film’s overarching villain Dreykov (Winstone).

Fast forward 21 years, and Natasha is on the lam from Sec. Ross, who wants to bring her in for the bombing that took place at the signing of the Accords. As she attempts to stay hidden, she finds herself pursued by a mysterious assassin called Taskmaster, an event that leads her to Yelena and into a web of intrigue that involves Dreykov’s survival and his pursuit of vengeance against his enemies, and control of all those whom he can.

Indie director Cate Shortland takes the helm of Marvel’s latest feature and proves singularly adept at blending action in one of the most gripping and thrilling adventure the MCU has yet produced. While it shares a lot in common with other films in the MCU, it easily stands apart from those films as the deviation from the norm that fits better with the likes of Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy than it does with the more traditional fare of the Avengers films and many of the other origin stories. It’s a laudable decision to deliver an woman’s story into the hands of a female director, but more importantly it helps establish the necessity of disparate voices in all realms of filmmaking.

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