Unfortunately, there are not many movies that portray oudica, the Iceni queen who bravely rebelled against the Roman colonizers in first-century Britain. Despite being a significant figure in ancient history and a symbol of female empowerment, she has not been given much attention in film.
In 1978, a British television show titled Warrior Queen featured Siân Phillips covered in woad. In 2003, another film with the same title starred Alex Kingston and received average reviews. There have also been a few versions of the story in different languages, primarily for television. Many people also remember the iconic segment from Horrible Histories where Queen B (played by Martha Howe-Douglas) sings a grungy song about her bloody campaign. However, despite all of this, there is still potential for a fantastic feature film about the toughest and most heroic woman from Norfolk, alongside Edith Cavell and Delia Smith.
Unfortunately, the position is still open after this dull portrayal of the killer queen, portrayed by Ukrainian-French actress Olga Kurylenko. While some may question this, I have previously witnessed decent performances from Kurylenko – such as her role as a concert pianist in The Death of Stalin. However, in general, she excels more when speaking French or simply being a decorative presence. This, sadly, is one of her weakest performances, as the role relies heavily on the lead actor’s ability to exude majesty and determination.
Kurylenko’s performance is lacking in grit and her weak voice is particularly unconvincing when she attempts to inspire others with passionate speeches. In one scene, her character receives devastating news about a loved one’s death and her despair is accompanied by somber music, indicating that even the filmmakers were aware of the lackluster performance. It seems they chose to cover it up with sentimental music instead.
Writer-director Jesse V Johnson has scant talent for dialogue either; Horrible Histories had more gravitas. What Johnson is good at – and so he should be, given his earlier career as a stunt performer and coordinator – is choreographing fights and fisticuffs. Although the film often looks like a home movie shot with half a dozen live action role play devotees messing around in a forest, the thwacking of swords and plunging of knives is a bit of hoot. At one point, someone gets their head cut off and the dismembered visage keeps on blinking and gasping with incredulity at this indignity – a sensation viewers of this film will undoubtedly relate to.