The Warrior Queen of Jhansi Review
The action sequences try to carry the movie, but 'The Warrior Queen of Jhansi' is a watered-down history lesson.
Release Date: November 15, 2019
MPAA Rating: R
A tale of women’s empowerment, The Warrior Queen of Jhansi tells the true story of Lakshmibai, the historic Queen of Jhansi who fiercely led her army against the British East India Company in the infamous mutiny of 1857.
Director: Swati Bhise
Screenwriters: Devika Bhise, Swati Bhise, Olivia Emden
Producer: Swati Bhise
Cast: Devika Bhise (Rani Lakshmibai), Ben Lamb (Major Robert Ellis), Jodhi May (Queen Victoria), Rupert Everett (Sir Hugh Rose), Derek Jacobi (Lord Palmerston), Nathaniel Parker (Sir Robert Hamilton), Milind Gunaji (Gangadhar Rao),
Editors: Oral Norrie Ottey, Anuradha Singh
Cinematographer: Seamus Deasy
Production Designer: Angelica Monica Bhowmick
Casting Directors: John Hubbard, Ros Hubbard, Honey Trehan
Music Score: Tuomas Kantelinen
Rani Lakshmibai is a legendary figure in Indian history. The feminist figure and fierce warrior led India in the First War of Independence against the British in 1857. It’s about time for her story to be told to westerners. That’s where The Warrior Queen of Jhansi comes in.
The Warrior Queen of Jhansi tells the story of how The Rani (The Accidental Husband’s Devika Bhise) came to power in the city of Jhansi after the death of her husband, Gangadhar Rao (Milind Gunaji from “Everest”). Her adopted son is not recognized by the British government as a rightful heir, so the East India Trading Company (an economic arm of the British Empire) decides to legally annex Jhansi. Of course, Rani will have none of it, and she leads her army of female freedom fighters in a bloody revolution against the city’s British occupiers.
The Warrior Queen of Jhnasi is the directorial debut of Swati Bhise, who is the mother of Devika, who not only played the starring role, but co-wrote the screenplay along with Swati and Olivia Emden (The Birdcatcher, Euphoria). It’s a heroic tale of a woman who will not be ruled by her British oppressors. Heck, she won’t even follow the rules of her British oppressors. She earns her iconic status.
There’s a lot of girl power going on in The Warrior Queen of Jhansi. Not only does Rani fight harder and faster than her male opponents, but she is backed by an army full of capable women who do the same. Although there is a strong feminist stance, the movie is never man-hating. The guys also follow Rani into battle, fighting side-by-side with their female counterparts. At one point, one of Rani’s advisers/servants woefully wishes that she had a man, and instead of chastising her for feeling that way, Rani understandingly and gently corrects the girl’s patriarchal way of thinking. And one of Rani’s closest confidants is a British solider named Major Robert Ellis (Divergent’s Ben Lamb) who, although he plays both sides of the fence, seems to have Rani’s best interests at heart. Or, at least, has what he believes to be her best interests at heart.
Once The Warrior Queen of Jhansi gets rolling, it’s exciting – the combat scenes are thrilling. And the locations are breathtakingly stunning. But it all just seems like a watered-down version of history, sort of like an overly dramatic television movie, or a graphically violent Disney princess movie. It does its job of elevating Rani Lakshmibai to superhuman status, but in between the hero worship and bloodshed, it’s just an average account of an incredible story. The Rani deserves a better movie than she gets here.
It takes a while to get there, but once the fighting starts in The Warrior Queen of Jhansi, the chips are all in. The combat sequences were choreographed and coordinated by stuntman Glenn Marks (Wonder Woman, Robin Hood) from storyboards that were put together by director Swati Bhise. There’s an epic scale to the battles, with cameras swirling and bodies flying around everywhere. The audience is put right in the middle of the battlefield, and it’s exhilarating. The action sequences are easily the most effective aspects of the movie.