It’s been a long time coming but The Woman King has arrived and, damn, it’s amazing.
The story focuses on Nanisca (Viola Davis), the general of The Agojie under the reign of King Ghezo (John Boyega). Of course, something or someone has to shake things up. Say hello to Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), our POV character who is as young, brash, rash, and reckless as you want her to be. But she isn’t Nanisca’s only problem.
There is also the spiritual wound left by Dahomey forcing its own people into enslavement, combined with the unceasing advancements of Europeans and other enslavers from the Americas. If you thought this was going to be a one-note film then be prepared; it also reaches into Nanisca’s past (and it is nothing nice). Many of The Agojie share similar stories, those are the bonds that hold them together. The only thing left is to survive The Oyo Empire, the nation that had its foot on the necks of Dahomey and its pockets filled with the blood-stained wealth that bondage created.
How can a girlie win? Gina Prince-Bythewood’s epic is about to let us know if she can.
The Woman King is 2 hours and 14 minutes and you don’t even notice. What you feel is satisfied, because these filmmakers gift us with a historical action-drama that makes you want more and more. From the costuming, rich with the fabrics and dyes of the era, to the editing by Terilyn A. Shropshire and cinematography by Polly Morgan, this film is visually lush—bloody in places but fully a celebration of life in others.
My applause goes to fight coordinator Filip Ciprian Florian because the battles and hand-to-hand sequences don’t just look real, you damn near get splattered with the sweat and the dust. And when the time comes you feel the tears too.
That’s because the cast is a study in magnificence. Yes, Viola—always Viola. She lives up to the title. So does Mbedu, but my affections must be shared. Sheila Atim as Amenza is the film’s pulse, a living consciousness who lends her grace to Nanisca. She’s so good. Continue reading