Marvel character Black Widow may have (spoiler alert) died in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, but she is back for this slight but fun adventure that is actually set after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Confused? Don’t be – this action romp works as a stand-alone movie, so you don’t need in depth knowledge of the Marvel universe to enjoy it.
Originally due for release in 2020, the story introduces Black Widow – aka Natasha Romanoff – to us as a child, living a suburban American life with parents (Harbour and Weisz) and younger sister Yelena. A dramatic escape from the law reveals their true origins, however – mum and dad are Russian spies, and the young girls are due to be whisked off to the Red Room and trained to be elite ‘black widow’ assassins.
Fast forward a couple of decades and Natasha (Johansson), now one of the good guys, is in hiding following the break-up of the Avengers in Civil War, and Yelena (Pugh) is set free from Russian mind-control and ready to take on those who trained her, including Red Room chief Dreykov (Ray Winston, complete with wobbly Cockney/Russian accent). You don’t get any prizes for guessing that they end up teaming up, but there are still some revelations and plenty of cool action sequences to come as the girls take on everyone in their path to true freedom.
Weisz is terrific as the girls’ mother figure, and Harbour delivers the laughs as the out-of-shape dad who was once Russia’s Captain America equivalent, Red Guardian, but the movie belongs to the two leading women throughout, and they don’t disappoint.
Pugh and Johansson have great chemistry, and the adventure works best when they are on screen together, or in the moments when Pugh – who steals the movie with her mix of humour and toughness – gets to shine on her own.
Cate Shortland’s fast-paced spy-thriller-style direction is explosive and enjoyable, and while the story here doesn’t add much to the Marvel canon, it’s well worth catching for Pugh’s performance (an end credits scene hopefully promising this isn’t the last we will see of Yelena) and Natasha finally getting the kick-ass story she always deserved.
Is Black Widow suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A certificate film in the UK, due to scenes of violence and injury, so may not be suitable for younger viewers.
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