Mira Nair’s movie Queen of Katwe is a stunning sports biopic that rhymes with the life of Phiona Mutesi, the chess prodigy with an impoverished devastating childhood. Phiona belonged to one of the largest slums of Kampala, so you can imagine how destitute she really was, growing up.
A powerful brain like that of hers was dying in that dreamless muck without any self-realization, selling maize and trying to earn an elusive livelihood. It was only until one day Phiona found her interest piqued by a game of chess that left her at her life’s biggest turning points.
Queen of Katwe is the story of Phiona Mutesi’s gradual rise, from the hollows of abysmal conditions to a place where dreams get helmed. Of course none of it would have been possible if it were not for Robert Katende, the coach who never gave up on her, and saw her through every hurdle.
THE BEAUTY OF CHESS
Chess is hands down one of the most highly addictive games ever made. It makes you smarter and better. It presents you with a keener decisive brain. The brushing up it does is simply profound. Chess remains eloquent too. Its pieces speak of ideas that promise to mould you into a winner with time. In a way it reflects life itself. To choose to make a movie on something so vast was a winning move per se.
Queen of Katwe uses illustrations galore from the 64 blocks vague labyrinth where wars are fought invariably. William Wheeler uses plenty of lines that work in sync with the game to embellish the sport further. For example, this doesn’t go unnoticed when little Gloria tries to explain Promotion in chess.
“I call it Queening. In chess, the small one can become the big one. That’s why I like it!”
The movie appalls you when you look at the lifestyle of the Ugandan slum. To impart you a drastic angle, in comes the very brilliant and convincing portrayal of Nakku Harriet, performed by Lupita Nyong’o. She lets you witness evil manacles of poverty and shows you the blunt ugly side of her fate, trying to raise four children all by herself. You can’t help but feel extremely sorry for her. The destitution that grows on upon her family is really unfortunate to watch.
But Phiona fights it all, fights it with the army she retains on a sheer board.
“Chess is a game of fighting. These pieces are my army.”
Madina Nalwanga‘s portrayal of Phiona Mutesi is brilliant too. A dream of becoming the Grandmaster that breathed in her mind comes alive when she goes on a conquering spree. It is nerve-racking to see her break down when she finds her dreams being crushed by privation. Also, the time when she shatters on falling from a mountain of overconfidence tingles your eyes. All of it has been beautifully depicted.
At the same time, you cannot ignore Robert Katende played beautifully by David Oyelowo. He remains the soul of Queen of Katwe movie trying at all times, his level best to uplift lost spirits. There is a teacher in him that constantly bellows streams of potency letting his children “The Pioneers” stand against the world. For that he is ready to make even colossal sacrifices that compels to you shower all accolades on him. He is a true champ!
DIRECTION OF QUEEN OF KATWE
Mira Nair is quite a director, you must say. Not for a moment does she dwindle as she progresses towards the finish line. Eventually she ices it all with a pragmatic depiction of real life characters standing next to their actors. A subtle way of paying homage!
If you try hard to look at the downsides I would say the first one is its language. Since, actors were forced to speak broken English things start appearing a tad contrived. Also, as mentioned above, chess is an amazing game. The beauty of the sport never really comes out talking in the open. This was primarily done in order to avoid indifference coming from non-playing audience. But, really we could have done with a proper nail-biting depiction of one game at least. Also, it scores a tad less in dramatic horizons considering titanic tears the script demanded.
At the same time, movie isn’t all bleak either. If you scour for hilarity you will find Benjamin another prodigy, played by Ethan Nazario Lubega as one of the most fun characters in the movie. The little fella brightens you up whenever he comes on screen.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Queen of Katwe is too good a movie for a Disney movie. We have seen how medicore Disney results have been in the past. But this Mira Nair beauty beats them all. It is also one of those rare great sports movie that puts your faith back in games again. Do watch!
Check out the trailer of Queen of Katwe here: