After Captain America: Civil War, but before The Avengers: Infinity War, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run in Europe when she’s sucked back into her old life as a Russian superspy. Contacted by fellow Black Widow Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), she learns that the Black Widow program is still going and that the mastermind behind it, General Dreykov (Ray Winstone), is not as dead as she thought – which is weird, since she was pretty sure she killed him.
Tash resolves to take down Dreykov and the Black Widow program once and for all. In practical terms, this means busting former Soviet superhero Red Guardian/Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) out of prison and finding retired Widow Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). This isn’t just a case of recruiting old allies, though; back in the day the four of them were sleeper agents posing as an American family, and old relationships and grudges are still very much alive.
Director Cate Shortland is known for being a) Australian and b) making pretty downbeat dramas like Somersault (2004), Lore (2012), and Berlin Syndrome (2017), so it’s a bit odd to find her calling the shots on a big ol’ Marvel tentpole. At first taste, anyway; Black Widow is a much more grounded, street-level kind of affair than the high-flying, universe-shaking antics we’ve grown accustomed to, and Shortland’s character-first approach is a good fit for the material. Action fans shouldn’t worry; you get enough big beats to keep you happy, but the real interesting stuff here is thematic.