Black Widow

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In many ways, this is the best James Bond picture since Daniel Craig assumed the role. Imagine two sibling 007s for the price of one: Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and her little sister (a feisty, pug-nosed Florence Pugh). The act of leaving home to find a home among superhero freaks supplies the backstory for much of what follows. What stands out amid the swamp of special effects is the chemistry between the two leads. (The one message that can’t be hammered home hard enough for this crowd is the one about women making choices.) For the most part, it’s the characters who drive the special effects, not the other way around. The genuine rapport between sisters is what separates this from Brie Larson’s pretentious turn in Captain Marvel. It’s clear that Pugh is being groomed for a standalone feature. Let’s hope future scripts offer her more to work with. Even Margaret Leighton couldn’t have done much with dialogue like “Ha!” and “Whoa!” and “Huh?” I’m still not 100% clear on the significance of Red Room. At the risk of alienating audiences with unpleasantry, if it’s the child-slavery ring I think it is, the filmmakers should have played it up more. Come for the special-effects, stay for the subplots involving adoptive daughters and their deeply damaged parents, played spectacularly by Rachel Weisz and an uncompromisingly amusing David Harbour. I haven’t enjoyed a Marvel movie this much since the second Captain America. Be glad that they waited for the theatres to reopen to release it. (2021) — Scott Marks

Rated PG-13 | 2 hours, 14 minutes
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