- Warning: There are mild spoilers ahead for “Queen & Slim.“
- “Queen & Slim” delivers a heart-wrenching, powerful film that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
- The film follows the titular characters as two fugitives on the run after killing a cop in self-defense.
- Lena Waithe deserves an Oscar nod for best original script for an emotionally-charged story that shows the strength of a community and the pitfalls of the justice system.
- Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith deliver gripping performances that stay with you long after the film. Try to avoid watching trailers before seeing the film.
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After a less than thrilling first date, a religious family-oriented man, Slim (played by Daniel Kaluuya), and a criminal defense lawyer, Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith), get pulled over by a white officer. What should be a routine patrol stop quickly escalates when the officer pulls his gun, a struggle ensues, and the cop winds up dead.
The rest of the movie follows the duo’s, often anxiety-ridden, journey to evade the law and the community who stood behind them.
A late contender for best of the decade, “Queen & Slim” delivers gripping performances, nail-biting moments, and a story of police brutality that will have audiences reflecting on society long after their screening.
Why you should care: It stars Oscar-nominated Daniel Kaluuya and is written by Lena Waithe (“Master of None”).
Waithe told the Los Angeles Times the idea for “Queen & Slim” was given to her by “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey, who said he couldn’t write the film. In an interview with Essence, Waithe said she didn’t allow one white person to give a note on the film in order to preserve its integrity.
Waithe said this isn’t 2019’s “Bonnie & Clyde,” but comparisons will be made to the 1967 film regardless. It’s tough not to once you’ve seen the film. A character in the movie even refers to the two main stars as such. If you loved Kaluuya in 2017’s “Get Out,” you’ll feel the same for him here.
What’s hot: A harrowing 10-minute start, the performances, and a lasting message that will spark conversation.
- Universal Pictures
In the film’s first 10 minutes, director Melina Matsoukas (“Insecure,” director of Beyoncé’s “Formation” video) delivers a frustrating and frightening scene that’s probably all too familiar to some as you watch a routine police stop go sour quickly. The scene’s been heavily teased in the film’s marketing, but it’s what happens next that stands out and sets “Queen & Slim” apart.
The immediate fallout from the shooting is shrouded in black as the ensuing dialogue occurs as the title card appears on screen. It’s makes for an even more impactful moment as you’re deprived of seeing what’s happening on screen and are anxious to know the two character’s next moves.
It’s an emotion that stays with you through so much of “Queen & Slim” as you’re on the run with the two titular characters through the just over two-hour film. A barrage of questions sit with you the entire way through. What could go wrong next? Will someone rat them out? Will the two get caught? (And, if they do get caught, what will happen?) At times, “Queen & Slim” plays like a horror nightmare.
- Universal Pictures
Not since Universal’s thrillers “Us” and “Get Out” have I experienced such visceral audience reactions, making “Q&S” a must-see in a crowded theater. There are at least three big moments throughout the film that will cause big theater reactions.
As much as you’re on the edge of your seat the majority of the film, Waithe’s script delicately balances a serious drama with unexpected humor. Much of that comes from the performance of Bokeem Woodbine as Queen’s Uncle Earl.
Kaluuya and Turner-Smith will hold your attention every moment they’re on screen. This is a break-out role for Turner-Smith, who you may recognize from Syfy’s “Nightflyers.” We’ll be seeing much more of her in the future. The chemistry between the two main stars will have you worried and rallying behind them the entire movie.
“Queen & Slim” is a fictional movie, but it steps back in a few sequences to bring the larger “Black Lives Matter” movement into focus. Film classes will dissect the movie’s religious imagery, political messages, parallels to the underground railroad, a broken justice system, and police brutality. Give Waithe an Oscar nod for best original script.
What’s not: You’re going to have a tough time finding something to dislike here.
Some may critique that the movie portrays all cops, and white cops, to look bad and violent. That’s not true. Waithe does a good job of balancing cops of all races and genders throughout the film. Early on, a Caucasian sheriff offers to help the duo after discovering they’re wanted, but it’s unsure of whether or not he can be fully trusted. Matsoukas watched “a lot of YouTube videos of black people being pulled over by the police” for inspiration for the film.
I think most audiences will appreciate the story is told from the voice and point of view of people of color to educate those who may have never lived through similar, terrifying experiences.
My largest complaint is that I thought the duo were a little less than careful and took too many risks during their journey to escape. I’m not sure if others on the run would do the same. You can’t be too upset because the tiny detours in the film led to a few beautiful cinematic moments, including the shot above.
Overall: Make time to see this one with a crowd.
The best movies hold up a mirror to society. In a year of superhero movies, reboots, and sequels, “Queen & Slim” is one of the most culturally significant films of 2019.
You’ll walk away pondering how much farther we have to go as a nation in fighting racism and equally inspired by the power and strength we can find in community. Try to avoid trailers before seeing this.
“Queen & Slim” is in theaters now. You can watch a trailer below.