The Woman King
The Woman King tells the story of the Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th century to the 19th. It follows General Nanisca (Viola Davis) fighting for her king Ghezo (John Boyega) against the Oyo Empire, who collaborated with Europeans in the slave trade. After refusing to marry an abusive man, young Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) is offered by her father to the Agojie. The headstrong Nawi soon butts heads with Nanisca, but as the rookie develops in her training, her relationship with the general grows more complex, challenging the two in ways they could never have imagined.
On paper, The Woman King’s story is a simple one. This simplicity should not be mistaken for a lack of narrative depth, however, and the film makes great use of its straightforward premise to deliver interesting character studies while leaving room for incisive social commentary about misogyny and racism. There are many bases for the film to cover, but it manages to do so without overwhelming its audience or overstaying its welcome, effectively pacing the action to ensure its audience remains gripped despite the hefty 135-minute runtime.
The movie’s script, with its focus on intricate character dynamics, needed heavy support from its cast to work, and thankfully all the actors brought their absolute A-game to this production. Davis steals the show as the compelling and multi-faceted Nanisca, bringing a powerful and emotive performance that adds further depth and nuance to the writing. Mbedu also excels in her role as the audience surrogate character, facilitating the interactions that form the backbone of the film’s narrative and providing an excellent foil to bring out new parts of Nanisca’s character.
The visuals of the film also help to enhance the key narrative beats and establish a unique cinematic identity for the piece, with gorgeous cinematography that accentuates the complexity of the cast’s performances and the natural beauty of Africa. The stunt choreography helps to keep things engaging too, with visceral and exciting action bolstered by kinetic and dynamic camera work.
The Woman King is a fantastic film, offering great character drama and stylish visuals, strengthened by the hard work of a talented cast. It’s an ambitious piece, but it manages to more or less realise its ambitions while remaining a thoroughly enjoyable cinematic experience.
The Woman King is released nationwide on 4th October 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Woman King here: