Film Review: I am Steve McQueen. 4/5 Stars.

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I was 13 years old the first I saw Steve McQueen in action. The film was the Peckinpah directed ‘Junior Bonner’ (1972) and at some point McQueen’s rodeo cowboy Bonner parks up at a roadside café in the Arizona desert and takes a booth seat, lights up a cigarette and orders black coffee and I am watching and thinking “That is exactly the kind of man I want to be, a cigarette smoking black coffee drinking loner.” He was cool, and I knew this without properly understanding what cool was. Whatever it was, he was compelling and I was responding as many other men had before me and since: “I want to be Steve McQueen.”

I have seen pretty much every film McQueen made and besides ‘Junior Bonner’ the other standout for me was ‘Papillion’ (1973), a gut wrenching film about freedom and injustice. McQueen inhabited the character of convicted murderer Henri Charrière and the agony of it deeply affected me. As I left the cinema horrified by the ugliness of the French penal system (as it was) I vowed to fight injustice for the rest of my life. Oh the power of a good movie!

 

 

‘I am Steve McQueen’ features archival interviews with the man himself plus a host of stars, ex-wives, descendants and people who knew him and worked with him offering insight into the mans character, stuff you already know this if you have ever watched any of his films. He was no method actor, he was Steve McQueen playing himself and what you saw was what he was: competitive, obsessive, dangerous and moody. He was his own man, a loner who lived life totally on his own terms and this documentary is a damned interesting visit with one of the great Hollywood movie stars of the 1960s-70s. Steve McQueen dead aged 50 from pleural mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos to which he was exposed while serving in the Navy as a young man.

 

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