Based on the true events of the Agojie, an African legion of female warriors who protected their families and land from the ruthless slavers of the surrounding areas, “The Woman King” brings to life these powerful women to the big screen with some wonderful action sequences and an exquisite narrative on empowerment, family, and standing up to oppression no matter what the cost is. With a stellar cast and crew, “The Woman King” is a sweet and ferocious film that should not be overlooked.
This film allows director Gina Prince-Blythewood (her “Love and Basketball” has the honor of being released by the Criterion Collection) to showcase both sides of her creative endeavors. Her extraordinary ability to tell a soft and tender side of human nature and love while also revealing the true horrors of humanity with some gritty and well-executed action sequences that are all built around amazing performances from her cast including Viola Davis, John Boyega (Star Wars), Lashana Lynch, and Thuso Mbedu. The screenplay from Dana Stevens and her writing partner and actress Maria Bello gives ample time across its two-hour run time to explore each character with their struggles to survive and empower their families.
The Agojie were a real faction of strong, powerful women that protected their land and families, similar to the Dora Milaje from Black Panther or even the Amazons in Wonder Woman. Inside the African Kingdom of Dahomey, the leader named Ghezo (Boyega) has taken over where he must face two groups of people who have allied with European slavers in the 1800s. His army is the Agojie who is led by General Nanisca (Davis) who will do anything to protect their people and home. As a giant battle is brewing, Nanisca is training the new generation of warriors, one of which holds a secret about her past that might form a connection between the two of them.
Blythewood perfectly balances the action and chaos with scenes of tenderness and love between Nanisca’s tribe. The hierarchy of her world with their traditions are given areas to breathe that educate on what life was like back then in this part of the world. Attention to detail in the costumes and what happened in history make the moving parts of this story really shine since Maria Bello came up with the story when she traveled to this part of the world and toured the actual place where the Agojie set up shop.
“The Woman King” truly breaks the mold though with its incredible performances from Davis, Boyega, and everyone else involved. Not only do their physical performances turn into greatness, but their quieter moments of dialogue and true determination in empowering the new generation of fighters come across on screen flawlessly. It’s a great underdog story full of heart and emotion along with some exquisite action beats, all of which have that emotional heft with stakes that make the characters worth caring for. The Woman King is one hell of a great time that is full of inspiring moments and wonderful performances. I happen to enjoy it more at home than at the theater. No doubt I was tired. Very surprised it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Very Highly Recommended! Five stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️