Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie-Turner Smith, Bokeem Woodbine
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Running Time: 132 mins
Queen & Slim is an American film about a couple who, after finishing an awkward first date, find their evening taking an unexpected turn after a roadside encounter with a police officer.
A captivating thriller throughout, Queen & Slim is a cagey but entirely enthralling watch. Taking its cues from the classic Bonnie And Clyde, it takes things up a gear by bringing uneasy atmosphere to the table, alongside passionate and timely political sentiment that creates two new legends on the run.
Following a couple who flee the pursuing authorities after killing a police officer out of self-defense, you might just expect Queen & Slim to be an updated version of Bonnie And Clyde, playing up the same outlaw sensibilities with elements of political discourse sprinkled in here and there.
But that couldn’t be furthere from what this film is, as it turns your expectations of just another outlaw duo upside down. Unlike the anti-heroes that were Bonnie and Clyde, Queen and Slim aren’t running from the law, but desperately escaping from an oppressive menace.
In that, the film has an entirely different message, giving a passionate account of the terrifying and almost unstoppable power of the authorities, allowing the story to play out more as an escape thriller than another crime thriller about living outside the law.
Director Melina Matsoukas brilliantly gives the film an atmosphere of deep unease, with our two leads on tenterhooks at every stage of their journey across the country.
That brings the sense of fear they feel as fugitives home even stronger, only deepened by their reliance on others – mostly African-Americans – for survival, as they encounter black community after community that appears to be living underground, hiding from the oppressive eyes of the authorities.
That’s where the film’s political sentiments really hit home. As they flee across the country, Queen and Slim’s reputation in the African-American community grows to legend status, as they become symbols of rebellion to oppression.
And with that, the film provides a passionate and striking call to arms in favour of people just like them, fighting back against a system that has pushed them around for far too long.
Those political themes and passionate accounts of timely, real-world issues are what really set this film apart from the rest, and particularly Bonnie And Clyde. It’s not a celebration of life outside the law, but rather a sobering and thought-provoking account of oppression, delivered with thrilling energy and deep insight throughout.
And what’s more, the film absolutely flies along with such great charisma and a stunning sense of adventure. Its darker sense of unease always looms large, but Queen & Slim also proves an entertaining and genuinely exciting watch at the same time.
Matsoukas’ sleek direction plays a big part in that, alongside gorgeous cinematography, eye-catching costume design and a memorable score. But there’s no looking past the brilliant lead duo of Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith.
With fantastic chemistry at both their highs and lows, Kaluuya and Turner-Smith are the perfect couple to follow across the country, impressing with great energy and zeal when the story really needs it, and real gravitas when appropriate as well.
Without such a dynamic duo in the lead roles, Queen & Slim would never have the same sense of spectacle and drama that it does. Its political themes are its strongest suit in terms of providing a powerful watch, Matsoukas’ direction gives the film immense style, but Kaluuya and Turner-Smith really bring it all together, powering along with genuinely fantastic performances all the way through.
Overall, then, I was really impressed by Queen & Slim. Immediately shaking off any superficial expectations that it would be just another Bonnie And Clyde, it thrills with uneasy drama and tension played out to the backdrop of passionate and powerful political themes.
Bolstered by eye-catching direction and two brilliant lead performances, it’s an enthralling watch that will leave you on tenterhooks from beginning to end. So, that’s why I’m giving Queen & Slim an 8.0.