The Woman King is a surprising crowd pleaser and showcases a host of brilliant performances and satisfying action.
Written by Jack Ransom / October 1, 2022
The Woman King is set in the 1800s, and sees a group of all-female warriors protect the African kingdom of Dahomey with skills and fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Faced with a new threat, General Nanisca (Viola Davis) trains the next generation of recruits to fight against a foreign enemy that's determined to destroy their way of life.
Unfortunately another victim of the sad mixture of sexists, racists and some of those pretending to care about alleged historical inaccuracies, who have gone out of there way to review bomb the film on IMDb. Thankfully those with actual common sense and (better things to do with their lives) are right to believe the majority of positive reviews as The Woman King is a surprising crowd pleaser (my early screening went crazy at points) and showcases a host of brilliant performances and satisfying action.
Having only seen the trailer properly once, I didn’t know too much outside of the overarching premise going into this. Which provided a surprise when it became clear that a substantial amount of the runtime is dedicated to a satisfying coming of age and self-proving storyline focused on Nawi (Thuso Mbedo), whose father sends her to train with the Agojie warriors after she refuses marriage. This story nicely runs parallel with Nanisca’s own personal trauma, a quest for revenge, as well as her dealing with her dealing with the effects of her age in combat.
Thematically the film is also strong. With the uncompromising slavery backdrop to the proceedings that the film does not shy away from and the prominently effective female empowerment tale at the forefront that will no doubt provide inspiration and resonate with a significant audience. The film could have possibly been a little shorter, as you do feel its length at times, especially with the inclusion of a largely underdeveloped Romeo & Juliet-esque love story side plot.
Gina Prince-Bythewood previous feature was The Old Guard, which admittedly I found largely forgettable, but the action was solid. Though still a little quick cut heavy at times, she has built upon those foundations with some surprising brutality. Watching the Agojie tear through their opponents with machetes, rifles and gloriously razor sharp eye-gouge ready finger nails is a sight to behold and has many a grin inducing fist in the air satisfaction to it.
Viola Davis’ stony, brooding and strong forced presence is perfect for the role and those moments where she cracks and emotion floods through are performed as effectively as you would expect from her. Mbedo is a likeable younger lead and she brings a youthful sense of mischief to the proceedings as well as her arc and training morphing her into a skilled warrior. Lashana Lynch might just be the standout as Izogie. As wise as she is sarcastic and sharp tongued, with a strong sense of honour and kindness to her. John Boyega is largely reserved as the younger but imposing King Ghezo and Jimmy Odukoya is a suitably vicious antagonist.
The Woman King is a unique and entertaining autumn actioner. Balancing both its sincere and historical elements with a sense of gleefully savage action set pieces and a smattering of witty jokes. The performances are fantastic, the location cinematography is impressive and the production and costume designs are meticulously. Though it may be a little overlong and slightly clashing in its tones at points, this is certainly worth a big screen viewing.