Boudica, the Iceni queen who led a rebellion against Roman occupiers in ancient Britain, stands as a prominent feminist figure from history. Surprisingly, there have been limited cinematic portrayals of her remarkable story.
In 1978, a British TV series titled “Warrior Queen” featured the talented Siân Phillips adorned with woad paint. A 2003 film, also named “Warrior Queen,” starred Alex Kingston, while a handful of other adaptations in various languages were primarily made for television. Additionally, the iconic segment in “Horrible Histories” with Queen B (Martha Howe-Douglas) singing a grungy tune about her campaign (“Bow man, yeoman, smash the Roman foe man / All say ‘Yah / It’s Boudic-a!'”) remains a memorable tribute. However, there remains a gap in the portrayal of this formidable, heroic figure from Norfolk, alongside Edith Cavell and Delia Smith.
Unfortunately, this lackluster portrayal of the formidable queen, played by Ukrainian-French actress Olga Kurylenko, does little to fill that gap. While Kurylenko has delivered passable performances in the past, such as her role as a concert pianist in “The Death of Stalin,” this performance falls short. In a role where projecting majesty and determination is paramount, Kurylenko’s portrayal lacks the required grit and presence.
Kurylenko’s performance feels insipid, and her thin, feeble voice is particularly unconvincing when she attempts to inspire troops with impassioned speeches. About halfway through the film, there’s a moment where her character receives devastating news of a loved one’s death. Kurylenko’s lamentations are drowned out by a swell of mournful music, a clear indication that even the filmmakers recognized the performance’s shortcomings.
Writer-director Jesse V Johnson displays limited skill in crafting dialogue, with the result lacking the gravitas seen even in “Horrible Histories.” However, Johnson’s proficiency in choreographing action sequences shines through, given his background as a stunt performer and coordinator. While the film often appears like a home movie with a group of live-action role-play enthusiasts in a forest, the sword clashes and knife fights provide moments of entertainment. At one point, a character’s head is severed, yet the detached visage continues to blink and gasp in disbelief, a sensation that viewers of this film may also relate to.