THE WOMAN KING – A Review by Cynthia Flores

THE WOMAN KING – A Review by Cynthia Flores

I remember feeling amazed as I watched Mel Gibson’s directorial debut in 1995s, Braveheart. He filled the big screen with his savage portrayal of the historical Scottish hero William Wallace. I was swept away by the film’s epic scope playing out in front of me. That’s the same feeling I got sitting in the theater enjoying director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s new film, The Woman King. Only this time, the fierce and savage warrior is played by the transcendent actress Viola Davis. She not only brings the lead character of General Nanisca to life. She roars with the fire of a righteous warrior surrounded by elite trained women soldiers that would ride into hell with her if asked.

The Woman King is inspired by actual events. It is the remarkable story of the Agojie. An actual all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. They chose this life over marrying or having children. They were skilled and showed a fierceness unlike anything the world had ever seen. In our story, the leader of the Agojie is General Nanisca (Viola Davis). Her Lieutenant General and spiritual advisor is Amenza (Sheila Atim), her friend since they were young recruits. She has a tight group of women who are so revered that when they march through the city, everyone averts their eyes as a sign of respect. 

We meet the new recruits when a teenage girl Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), after being disobedient to her proposed future husband, arrives. Her father takes her to the palace gates where the Agojie live. He gives her as a gift to the king. There, the command sergeant in charge of training Izogie (Lashana Lynch) meets Nawi and sees her potential as a future warrior. 

Nawi and the other recruits must train and prove they have what it takes to become an Agojie. 

This is not just a battle film. It is an emotional journey as General Nanisca and her team train the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. When the General reasons with King Ghezo (John Boyega) about ending slave trading, she knows it will be difficult to go up against everyone that wants it to continue. Including other African tribes.  She responds to his arguments by saying, “Some things are worth fighting for….”

The Woman King is a fantastic epic film from a team of genuinely gifted female artists. First, it is layered with the stunning cinematography of Polly Morgan. The film’s photography shines in this story’s clean and brutal fight scenes. As the textures of the camera work pull you in for the intimate dramatic moments. Coupled with the stellar female leads of the cast and all the training they did to get the physicality needed for the action part of it. Because over 90% of the stunts were done by the actual actresses in the role, not by stunt doubles. All of this works hand in hand with director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s talent of telling stories of black women carrying power while finding strength within themselves and the women surrounding them. 

I could go on and on listing everything, I liked about this film. But instead, I will sum it up with “Oscar nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Script, Best Actress, Best Actress in a supporting role, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Editing.” It’s the best time you can spend in a movie theater this weekend. 

I give The Woman King 5-stars. It’s sure to be in the front running come Oscar season. So go see it on the big screen and enjoy this stunning film that makes you want to scream along in battle with the Agojie warriors. 

 

Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Written by: Maria Bello, Dana Stevens

Rated: PG

Selig Rating: 5 Stars

Running Time: 2hr 15min

Action / Historical Drama

Wide Release: Only in Theaters September 16th

Starring: Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, John Boyega

 

The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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