Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Forget Harriet, why isn’t Queen & Slim getting the recognition and buzz it deserves? It fits that “black people are oppressed” category that the Academy eats up every year, but is a legitimately strong movie in its own right. For a director in her debut with a writer also in her debut, I’m stunned with their ability to create a horrifying yet realistic environment with multi-dimensional, honest characters. With a dynamic pair of leading performances and a story that could very realistically happen in our lifetime, Queen & Slim pairs the struggle of new love with the fear of being hunted down and captured by the police over the course of 132 minutes.
The film follows Queen (Turner-Smith) and Slim (Kaluuya), two people on a Tinder date getting to know one another and getting to know one another. When they get pulled over by the police and a confrontation leaves the officer dead, Queen and Slim go on the run and try to escape police from around the country. With a portion of the country supporting them and another wanting them captured, time is of the essence for two people who barely know each other but rely on each other to survive. When you have two characters that are referred to as “The Black Bonnie and Clyde,” if their chemistry is anything less than spectacular then the whole movie will fall apart. Luckily, Turner-Smith and Kaluuya perform in a way that would make Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty proud. While the movie starts off with them feeling uneasy and untrusting of each other, when they’re thrown into a world where they have no one to trust but each other we get to see a genuine and raw connection develop between the two. We’ve seen Kaluuya emerge as one of the best actors of the last few years, but for Turner-Smith took this opportunity to show us she’s just as talented and can match the energy that Kaluuya gives in their scenes together. While the two actors certainly make the movie what it is, the fact that they have such a strong script to work with certainly doesn’t hurt. While some people may look at this movie as a love story, to me it’s a horror movie with real-life possibilities. Nobody wants to be put in the position that Queen and Slim are put in, but as long as police go unpunished for their actions and racism exists, this movie could end up being a true story one day. While the movie has a clear motive and plan, I appreciate that it never comes off as one-sided and showed different sides of people regardless of who they supported. This isn’t necessarily a cut-and-dry issue and there are many avenues to take and I’m glad Queen & Slim explored most of them. There’s certainly one side that is more right than the other, but does that justify every action taken throughout the movie? Queen & Slim is a tragedy in the truest form and a reality that I’m sure some people fear on a daily basis.
Overall, Queen & Slim has become the emergence of what are hopefully a few budding superstars in their roles. Whether this is in acting, writing, or directing, it wouldn’t surprise if any of these people ended up making a big jump in the next few years. Kaluuya continues to dazzle in the spotlight and it’s only a matter of time before he gets the full recognition he deserves. I’m stunned this movie didn’t make the splash it should’ve around the awards circuit, but when we look back at 2019, we’ll all realize how badly these awards missed on Queen & Slim.
Overall Score: 8/10