The Woman King
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

The Woman King Is a crowning achievement of female empowerment

Gina Prince-Bythewood teams up with the iconic Viola Davis for her latest female lead action flick in The Woman King from Tri Star Pictures. Dana Stevens pens the screenplay for the film, which takes inspiration from actual events. The remarkable story of the Agojie is one you didn’t learn about in school. An all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey. The time period was the 1800s, and these ladies had skills and a fierceness, unlike anything the world had ever seen.

The Warriors are under the rule of King Ghezo (John Boyega). Along with her trusted warriors Izogie (Lashana Lynch) and Amenza (Sheila Atim), General Nanisca (Viola Davis) trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. Among the recruits is Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a strong-willed girl who her father offered to the king after refusing to marry men who would beat her. The training the recruits are undergoing is to prepare them for war against Oba (Jimmy Odukoya), the primary political opponent of Dahomey.

Before deep diving into my review, I’ll address the elephants in the room. Yes, a Caucasian woman wrote the film, but the film’s director, a woman of color, provided notes and did an uncredited rewrite. Secondly, The film is based on the Kingdom of Dahomey in Benin, which existed from 1600 to 1904. As the Atlantic slave trade grew, Dahomey became known to Europeans as a significant slave supplier. During wars and raids against neighboring societies, this military regime captured children, women, and men. It sold them for European goods such as rifles, gunpowder, fabrics, cowrie shells, tobacco, pipes, and alcohol. 

As for the remaining captives, they became enslaved people in Dahomey, working on royal plantations and being routinely executed in large-scale human sacrifices during the annual Customs of Dahomey festival. However, most of this is addressed in the film. Furthermore, most fact-based films will gloss over truth for the sake of the narrative. I advise potential viewers to form their opinion after seeing the movie.

The Woman King is easily one of 2022’s best films. From the opening moments where we see the woman in action to the training sequences, I had a smile on my face the entire watching these women in action. Viola Davis delivers another award-worthy performance. Newcomer Thuso Mbedu more than holds her own in the film, and the Awards buzz she’s getting is warranted.

It was also great to see Sheila Atim on screen again. She first came to my attention in last year’s Bruised, and she has a brief role in this year’s Doctor Strange sequel. Hopefully, this film opens more doors for her because she is an action star waiting to happen. Finally, what can you say about Lashana Lynch? She blew me with her appearance in last year’s Bond flick and brought the same swag to this role. Her character was my favorite in the film. Regarding the males in the movie, John Boyega brings the right amount of immaturity and thirst for women to his role as the king. At the same time, Jimmy Odukoya makes for a great villain. 

The Woman King is a lavishly produced, rousing epic with some great fight scenes. Thankfully the script doesn’t fail to overlook the emotionally charged side of the story. As the film director, Gina Prince-Bythewood strikes a good balance between the many characters in the movie and the subplots, with Lashana Lynch winning the competition with plenty of badass scenes in a convincing ensemble cast.

 

Final Grade: A+

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