Hello July 2021, meet Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow. If you remember, she was trained as a Russian spy and fights with a lethal ferocity, all backed by special powers, you know—just another “god” from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In this installment, we go back to her origin story, which is set in Ohio in 1995, where we meet Natasha (Ever Anderson), who is around 13, and her younger sister (Violet McGraw).
At home, it’s quickly evident that the girls’ homelife isn’t picture perfect. Their mother (Rachel Weisz) sits them down to dinner but when their father (David Harbour) arrives he informs them that they have an hour to leave their home.
A frantic drive to the countryside, where a prop plane awaits them, followed by authorities shooting right into the plane. Their destination: Cuba, where the two girls are given a knockout drug and hauled away.
You guessed it, their parents are deep-cover Russian spies, and the entire “family” structure and living arrangement were fabricated. Back to the old work grind, the girls are sent to General Dreykov (Ray Winstone), an evil mastermind who raises them to be a part of his elite but brainwashed army of deadly femme-fatale, Widows, where they are trained inside the Red Room.
Fast-forward, the next time we see Natasha, she’s older, 21 years old, and trying to mend her broken life.
Now, remember that she is technically an Avenger but this story is set after “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), and with the dismantling of the group, she defected to the West at the request of S.H.I.E.L.D. which was led by Steve Rogers.
In Budapest, Natasha reunites with her younger sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), who’s turned into an effective and jaded assassin. Despite being action-packed (and, again, worth your hard-earned money), there is heart in this story and complicated relationships with history.
Family squabbles are real, and when Natasha and Yelena greet each other and duke it out, we learn just how well these women are trained. But family wins out and they unite over the horrible fact that Dreykov is the sinister figure that stole their lives.
Natasha thought she had avenged the wrong by blowing him up, but she murdered his young daughter in the process.
To defeat Dreykov, the two sisters attempt to reorganize their “family” which begins with breaking Alexei (their former dad) out of a very dangerous-looking prison. He has visually metamorphosed back into the Red Guardian, the Russian version of Captain America. Melina (Weisz) is convincing if not a bit suspect in how she conducts her life.
When Natasha finally faces off against Dreykov, a bully wearing a bureaucrat suit, she understands that, in will and intelligence, they are evenly matched. The tension leads to a tremendous finale that swells into a very, very big deal, no spoiler alerts here.
A solid nod to the director Cate Shortland (“Somersault”), who establishes a mood from the first couple of frames.