IN his first directorial feature, Turner Prize winning artist Steve McQueen tackled the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. This he followed with a similarly hard-hitting drama about sex addiction, before, in 2013, winning a string of awards for 12 Years a Slave. All very serious stuff, then.

By comparison, McQueen’s latest film - which hit cinemas on Tuesday - is a light-hearted affair. Based on ITV’s 1983 television series of the same name, by Prime Suspect creator Lynda La Plante, Widows is a gripping and brilliantly executed heist movie. It’s much darker in hue than the similarly plotted formula of Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans franchise but every bit as audacious.

Fences star Viola Davis heads up a fierce quartet of leads here, playing Veronica Rawlings, widow of recently deceased convict Harry (Liam Neeson). When the fallout of Harry’s final heist comes back to haunt her, Veronica must recruit the widows of his old gang - Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda and Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice - for a fortune-reversing heist of their own. Broadway legend Cynthia Erivo rounds off the team, in her film debut, playing overworked single mum Belle. As the film opens, the quartet are total strangers; as it climaxes, each relies on the other for survival.

A number of implausible twists and dubious happenings lurk beneath the sheen of McQueen’s visual flair but it is a testament to the assembled talent here that these are never to the detriment of a powerful narrative flow. This is a masterful genre offering.

Also out this week is Illumination’s new animated take on Dr. Suess’ Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Yes, with Halloween and Bonfire Night out of the way, the festive season is officially here already. Ho, ho and indeed ho.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that a film about a Christmas-hating grump should land in a week that will see many grumble ‘it gets earlier every year’. For those unaware, this is the story of a hairy, pear-shaped, green felon who hatches a plan to ruin Christmas in the town of Whosville whilst its residents prepare for seasonal celebration.

Taking the headline role from Jim Carrey - whose live-action adaptation was a hit in 2000 - Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Grinch in the film, which also stars Pharrell Willaims and Angela Lansbury. Music comes courtesy of Danny Elfman, with direction by The Secret Life of Pets’ Yarrow Cheney and Free Birds’ producer Scott Mosier. Fun.