The Queen of Katwe Review

Based on the inspiring true story of Phiona Mutesi, “The Queen of Katwe” is directed by Mira Nair, starring Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and Madina Nalwanga.  “The Queen of Katwe” tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl living in the slums of Katwe Uganda.  There, she is discovered by chess master Robert Katende to have an extraordinary gift of logic and knowledge making her one of the best chess players that he has ever seen.  He invites her into his chess school, and together they inspire an entire nation, while fiercely participating in one of the most strategic sports in the world.  Like true Disney fashion, this is an emotionally gripping story of sportsmanship, family and love that is sure to please families.

“The Queen of Katwe” is such a real life film.  When I say “real life” I mean it tells a story about real people in real world situations.  This is a film so well told, and expertly directed by Mira Nair whose previous work I am not familiar with.  Disney is known for making a lot of feel-good family stories and a lot of times they are hit or miss.  But this one nails it!  It’s equal parts funny and sad, inspiring and devastating.  The characters are extremely well developed and they make the film very relatable.  The movie takes a sport that isn’t football or basketball and makes it extremely interesting to watch.  I was emotionally invested all the way through and felt such a sheer amount of happiness when the credits rolled.

“The Queen of Katwe” is an incredible film from start to finish.  And what makes this human drama narrative so compelling are the actors involved.  The two big standouts here are David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.  Oyelowo delivered such an incredible performance.  He truly was the inspiration for this story, playing Phiona’s chess coach.  He was so believable and inspiring which reminded me of how Denzel played coach Herman Boone from “Remember the Titans.”  Oyelowo is a phenomenal actor and really stole this movie.  And Lupita Nyong’o; what’s there to say.  I think she’s one of the best actresses in Hollywood right now.  She’s beautiful, strong and can deliver some of the greatest emotions ever put on film by an African American actress.  Everything that I have seen her in is epically fantastic.  She was great playing Mowgli’s mother in “The Jungle Book” and Maz Kanata in “Star Wars” and her amazing performance in “12 Years a Slave” is unmatched.  And in “The Queen of Katwe” she is no different.  She plays her character with a real depth of emotion and is the anchor of the movie.  And also newcomer Madina Nalwanga was great playing Phiona, the main character.  The acting here was incredible and made this film the best that it could be.

A couple other things to note were the storytelling elements.  This movie was paced very well, finding the right balance of sappy, happy and emotional grounding.  It didn’t feel too sad, or too inspirational.  It hit those right teary eyed moments exceptionally well, and added in some well placed humor throughout the film that brought everything back to reality.  Disney does this so well in most of their films and “The Queen of Katwe” is no exception.  I also thought the cinematography was really well done.  You could see the slums of Uganda and how people really live in a third world country.  It makes you appreciate the life that most of us have.  This movie acts as a window into another culture and we get a full picture of the lives of these chess players.  This movie, for whatever reason reminded me of “Cool Runnings,” the Jamaican bobsled team movie, also from Disney.  I don’t know why, but I thought of that film when watching this.

The movie is a little over two hours in length which for some could be a problem, but I didn’t feel it’s length.  I was so invested in the story and the characters so the running time never bother me one bit.  There really is not a whole lot to criticize here.  There was one moment that happens in the middle of the movie involving a flood and a certain character that was not told exceptionally well and I was a little confused with the dialogue.  If you have seen the movie then you know what scene I’m talking about.  But who knows, I may have missed something in the translation.  Other than that this was a near perfect film.

“The Queen of Katwe” is one of the best pictures of 2016.  This was a phenomenal story with an interesting plot and great characters.  The acting was some of the best that I have seen in 2016 and I cannot recommend this movie enough.  It packs that Disney feel into a two hour runtime and every moment is pure joy to watch.  Mira Nair has made an incredible movie with “The Queen of Katwe” and it’s such a shame that this movie performed so poorly at the box office.  Do yourselves a favor and don’t miss this one!  It’s a sure crowd pleaser and you won’t regret it.

Grade:  A+

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