The Woman King (2022) – “Long live the King!”

The Woman King is a 2022 American historical epic film about the Agojie, the all-female warrior unit who protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries. Set in the 1820s, the film stars Viola Davis as a general who trains the next generation of warriors to fight their enemies.

Review

Stephan (Guest) – This film kicks ass! It’s not afraid to centre the conversation around colonization and the impact it has had on Africa. But it also addresses local conflicts that lead to the core conflict, giving the film a robust view of the world. Cultural customs are depicted, even though they don’t fit in with the worldview of the modern audience who will be watching. A brave move that doesn’t sanitize the world. The story is based on an alternate history, so be aware that this film is pure fiction.

Viola Davis is amazing as one of the core leads, as is Thuso Mbedu. But for me, it was Lashana Lynch’s Izogie who really lights up every scene she’s in with humour, fierceness, and charisma.

The Woman King truly feels like a historical epic as its runtime of over 2 hours provides an opportunity to explore many characters, and multiple sub-plots that converge in a thrilling climax.

I was not a fan of the grading in the film, but once I got used to it, I was happy that it carved out a unique visual style. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood confidently directs the action, and drama in the personal human moments of the story. I’m glad that with her last few projects she’s been getting the budgets she deserves after many years in the industry. 

“Powerful”

The Woman King has all the expected emotional beats of an epic with a young character and their older mentor at the center of it all, but carves out a unique approach with its fierce army of warriors. The film has a delicate balance between action, drama and romance, but centers the emotional story between Viola Davis’Nanisca, and Thuso Mbedu’s Nawi.

While the black women are at the forefront of this story and the marketing around the film, it’s worth noting that the two credited writers are white women. This tends to happen a lot in Hollywood as marginalized voices continue to be excluded in the stories that the film industry selects and invests in.

Despite a brutal word and an even more brutal time period, the film is still filled with tender moments, humour and romance. This is an important factor that keeps it captivating throughout the lengthy runtime.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and I’m hoping we get more stories like this coming from African writers and directors too. 7.5/10

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