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“Damsel” Review: “Stranger Things”' Millie Bobby Brown Fights a Fire-Breathing Dragon in Exciting Netflix Film

Angela Bassett and Robin Wright also star in the fantasy film

<p>Netflix</p> Millie Bobby Brown confronts the strangest thing yet—a dragon

Netflix

Millie Bobby Brown confronts the strangest thing yet—a dragon

Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown continues to forge her path as Netflix’s leading lady, picking vehicles that neatly fit her talent and temperament.

Considering she just turned 20, this is nothing to sneeze at. There’s her intrepid work as Eleven in all those seasons of the phenomenally popular Things.

Then she had her own solo success on the streaming platform with 2020’s Enola Holmes, a sprightly Victorian mystery in which she played Sherlock Holmes’s sister. That was followed by a 2022 sequel, with a third film expected.

Now, with Damsel, she stars in a medieval action-fantasy — a highly entertaining one — and proves she can handle a dragon just as well as Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen did on HBO’s Game of Thrones. (Better, actually, when you remember how all that firepower messed with Daenerys’s mind. A red-hot mess, wasn't she? Kind of sad, really.)

Related: Millie Bobby Brown Sparks Confusion from Fans Over Loss of Her Accent: 'She Doesn't Sound British at All'

Brown plays Elodie, a girl who lives in a cold, cash-strapped province in what’s described merely as a “faraway land.”

Her father and stepmother, the Lord and Lady Bayford (Ray Winstone and Angela Bassett), arrange for her to marry into the fabulously wealthy royal family of a distant kingdom. Elodie bridles at not being allowed to have her choice of husband, but she’s also sensible — they’re all hungry and freezing in her neck of the woods.

<p>John Wilson / Netflix </p> Millie Bobby Brown and Nick Robinson as newlyweds—who are about to be brutally separated.

John Wilson / Netflix

Millie Bobby Brown and Nick Robinson as newlyweds—who are about to be brutally separated.

So off she goes to a truly splendid castle, immense and golden. She and her family are welcomed by the queen, Isabelle (Robin Wright, gorgeously cloaked in robes, power and snobbery), and her fiancé, Prince Henry (Nick Robinson), who looks oddly sheepish, as if he’d been caught in a lie on his Royal Match profile.

But Stepmother (is that her first name?) senses that something is dreadfully off. She’s right. Elodie is really just a ritual sacrifice, a token peace offering to the local dragon. It’s Midsommar with a reptile.

As soon as the nuptials are concluded, she’s dropped — with no more fond adieu than if she were a sack of laundry — into a very deep pit. Down she plunges into the complex of caves, crevices and tunnels the dragon calls home. The real-estate development potential is enormous.

Elodie’s fight against the dragon has a strong whiff of Things’ otherworldly hells. The production design, here and throughout the film, is first-rate.

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<p>John Wilson / Netflix </p> Millie Bobby Brown in 'Damsel'

John Wilson / Netflix

Millie Bobby Brown in 'Damsel'

In size and scale, the dragon — a female — might not be as overwhelming a beast as you’d want. She’s like a Jabberwocky that could be squeezed into a conference room. But her voice (provided by Shohreh Aghdashloo) is a compelling guttural purr, and — in an oddly pretty special-effects flourish — she belches out entire flocks of burning birds. The dragon, we eventually learn, also has serious emotional issues that will need to be addressed.

By then Elodie has climbed crystal rock faces, applied phosphorescent leeches to her wounds and provoked the queen to utter the immortal line: “I knew that damn girl would be trouble.”

Damsel is on Netflix Friday.

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