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Movie Review: ‘Damsel’ | Moviefone




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Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in 'Damsel.'

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in ‘Damsel.’ Cr. John Wilson / Netflix © 2023.

“There are many stories where a knight saves a damsel in distress. This is not one of them”. The Millie Bobby Brown led fantasy adventure ‘Damsel‘ lands on Netflix on March 8th, where she plays Elodie, a dutiful damsel set to marry a handsome prince.

Despite the beautiful gowns and gorgeous castle, Elodie soon realizes there’s something far more sinister lying under the guise of a royal wedding – a generational debt to be paid to a fearsome dragon, and she’s the sacrifice.

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Initial Thoughts

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in 'Damsel.'

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in ‘Damsel.’ Cr. John Wilson/Netflix ©2024.

This story isn’t your traditional fairy tale. There’s no prince coming to Elodie’s rescue, and she’s not falling in love. Instead, Elodiel has found herself betrayed and trapped in the dragon’s lair. The only person who can help her is herself. While there’s not a lot of dialogue in the film – as Elodie spends most of the time trying to escape from the dragon’s wrath – it makes up for it in action.

The film’s first act has quite a bit of exposition, setting up the origin of the sacrificial debt to the dragon, Elodie’s family’s dire financial situation, and why she was willing to marry a prince she’s never met before. However, once the film moved into the second act, it was gritty, brutal, and action-packed.

Story and Direction

Robin Wright and Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo on the set of 'Damsel'.

(L to R) Robin Wright and Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo on the set of ‘Damsel’. Cr. John Wilson/Netflix ©2024.

‘Damsel’ is directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, with an original screenplay by Dan Mazeau. Based on the novel by New York Times best-selling author Evelyn Skye, this film is a collaboration between Netflix and Random House.

The movie quickly establishes the reason why the kingdom of Aurea owed an ancient debt to the dragon and why it must take place every generation. The flashback scene of the then-King of Aurea and the dragon was far more brutal than expected, with his army succumbing to the dragon’s deadly fire breath.

Fast forward to centuries later, we meet Elodie and her family in their kingdom of Inophe. The good-natured princess was always willing to help out the people of her realm, not afraid to get her hands dirty. Elodie had a great relationship with her father, Lord Bayford (Ray Winston), her sister Floria (Brooke Carter), and her stepmother, Lady Bayford (Angela Bassett).

Ray Winstone as Lord Bayford and Angela Bassett as Lady Bayford in 'Damsel.'

(L to R) Ray Winstone as Lord Bayford and Angela Bassett as Lady Bayford in ‘Damsel.’ Cr. Netflix ©2023.

Knowing her realm was in trouble, and the marriage to Prince Henry of Aurea would help her people exponentially, Elodie put her own feelings aside and agreed, even if the proposal of marriage came for a mysterious woman clad in red whose sinister presence should have been questioned.

Upon Elodie’s arrival in Aurea, her ship sails past dense fog with statues of terrifying dragons lining the course, eluding to the unknown danger she’ll soon face. However, the film does a great job of making Aurea look spectacular once the ship breaks through the fog with bright green lands as far as the eye can see, and a stunning castle, making it a perfect juxtaposition of the prior scene.

Despite the happy facade of a royal wedding, Elodie soon finds out the cruel trap that’s been laid for her as she is tossed without a care into the dragon’s pit. The film did not pull punches when it came to Elodie’s suffering and injuries while she was in the depths of the lair, giving her almost a “John McClane” level of scrapes, cuts, and bruises.

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in 'Damsel.'

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in ‘Damsel.’ Cr. John Wilson/Netflix ©2023.

It was great to see how Elodie would survive and outsmart the dragon as more layers of the story are revealed. She’s not imbued with super-human powers, so it was great watching her relying on her own physical strength and survival skills as she navigates through the Dragon’s den. The movie did make a point of showing Elodie’s fascination with drawing and creating mazes – but the film never put this particular (and seemingly perfect) skill to use where she would map out the lair on her own.

The highlight of the film lies in Elodie’s encounter in the lair, where her determination to survive is captivating and most interesting to watch. When it came to the dialogue, much of it felt awkward or fast-tracked, with the exception of the relationship between Elodie and her sister Floria and a brief conversation between Robin Wright’s Queen Isabelle and Angela Bassett’s Lady Bayford.

Performances

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie, Nick Robinson as Prince Henry, Robin Wright as Queen Isabelle and Milo Twomey as King Roderick in 'Damsel.'

(L to R) Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie, Nick Robinson as Prince Henry, Robin Wright as Queen Isabelle and Milo Twomey as King Roderick in ‘Damsel.’ Cr. Netflix ©2023.

It is clear that Millie Bobby Brown isn’t afraid to get down and dirty in this role as her character stumbles, crawls, and climbs through the underground lair. A majority of her scenes are by herself, and her range of emotions, from despair to determination, is perfectly portrayed. This film showcases her ability to not only carry a feature film on her shoulders but also be so captivating that the audience can’t help but cheer her on.

While Brown shines in the film, the other characters feel at times forgotten. The dialogue between characters is mostly short lived and only used as a way to propel the story forward rather than developing their character. Robin Wright was terrific as Queen Isabelle, whose beautiful smile hides a vicious agenda. It’s unfortunate that Wright and Bassett were given so little to do in the film, and their talents felt wasted.

Final Thoughts

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in 'Damsel.'

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in ‘Damsel.’ Cr. John Wilson/Netflix ©2023.

Add this movie to the list of great female-empowering films that are fun to watch. It’s dark and gritty, has a ton of action, and breaks the “damsel in distress” trope. The story isn’t exactly original, but there are more twists and surprises than one can expect. While the dialogue lacked in parts, the movie shines the most when Millie Bobby Brown goes up against the dragon, putting her survival skills and fighting spirit to use.

‘Damsel’’ receives 7 out of 10 stars.

“This is not a Fairytale”

PG-131 hr 49 minMar 8th, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

A dutiful damsel agrees to marry a handsome prince, only to find the royal family has recruited her as a sacrifice to repay an ancient debt. Thrown into a cave with… Read the Plot

What is the Plot of ‘Damsel’?

A dutiful, sheltered young noblewoman (Millie Bobby Brown) agrees to marry a handsome prince (Nick Robinson), only to discover that his family intends to sacrifice her to repay an ancient debt. Trapped in the cave of a fearsome dragon, she must rely on her wits and will to survive.

Who is in the Cast of ‘Damsel’?

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in 'Damsel.'

Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in ‘Damsel.’ Cr. Netflix ©2023.

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