Cinema appears to have reached a point where all features are now required to look beautiful, purely as a standard. Queen & Slim’s cinematography, from longtime television photographer Tat Radcliffe, is quite simply stunning, and only a few years ago would have been a shoo-in for a cinematography nomination at the Oscars. But the game has changed, looking incredible is required with the quality of both the equipment and the cinematographers working in modern cinema, and a film like Queen & Slim needs its story to land to still see it’s status as a successful feature follow through.
On a first date arranged on Tinder, two young black professionals (Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith) meet in a quiet diner for a late night meal. On the journey home, their car is pulled over by a white police officer, alleging there could be a potential DUI charge on the cards. However, when he becomes overly agitated, he shoots, only to be overthrown himself and shot in the chest. Now, on the run, the pair must travel across America, with a dream of escaping, entirely evading the advancing authorities looking for them and using increasing scales of force.
With a wonderful partnership at its heart, Queen & Slim is all too often a film of vital moments, rather than the progressive journey it needed to be. Chased by police and those actively searching for them, the characters don’t often seem in danger, or really any sort of hurry, leaving the story to act as sequential moments rather than anything more intimate or meaningful. The biggest moments absolutely hit, but far too often the moments in between just seem as fleeting introductions or empty plot filler. Past the first act there’s a definite lack of content that hinders it’s growth.
Yet, with such beauty in its image, a wonderful soundtrack and Kaluuya and Turner-Smith blending perfectly, the roughness of a ‘quest story line’ is somewhat smoothed by the quality in other areas. Queen & Slim has a departmental wonder about it that film’s don’t often boast in a world where many members of the crew fill in with multiple roles.
Highlighting its importance however, does tip it into the realm of worthiness, certainly in the eyes of historical cinema. Passion, power and justice fuel the film’s readiness, as well as its emotions. Queen & Slim follows a long line of films about police brutality, but stands out for its drive to entertain, not just build awareness. The greatest films do both, and Queen & Slim wasn’t far from doing so almost entirely under the radar.