Viola Davis and all these strong women fight the power in this epic war movie.
After the 2019 “Charlie’s Angels” and “The 355” have both failed at the box office, some have been convinced that movie-goers are no longer interested in female-led action films, no made by Marvel or DC. And I’ve been saying that women can be action stars, too, as long as they’re treated with respect and dignity.
“The Woman King” is a real contrast to those bombs in every way possible. It’s about the true story about African women soldiers, known as the Agojie, in the Kingdom of Dahomey during the 18th and 19th centuries. They have an enemy from the Oyo Empire, as well as traveling slavers, who plan to capture and sell people. And that’s when they put their guns and swords to the test.
It’s a movie that wants to be a blockbuster, but also wants to tackle on various themes regarding racism, and how these brave women can stand up for themselves. It’s action-packed, emotional, and dangerous all the way through, kudos to screenwriters Maria Bello and Dana Stevens and director Gina Prince-Bythewood.
It’s not a movie concerned about money; it’s more interested in the messages inside.
Viola Davis plays Nanisca, the general of the female army, who has earned her respect from the young King Ghezo (John Boyega). She knows that a greater evil is coming, in the form of the slavers. And she’s also in the middle of a personal situation of hers, while training some new recruits.
There’s also Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a 19-year-old girl, who has the balls to reject her would-be abusive and sexist suitor. That’s when her gold-digging father decides to give her to the King. And that’s when she admits to the general that she aspires to be a solider.
As with every ambitious and naive solider, and she struggles to earn the respect of the no-nonsense general. Nawi thinks she knows what she’s getting herself into, but Nanisca tells her otherwise. A real trouble-maker this girl is.
Other characters consist of Nanisca’s top lieutenants: Izogie (Lashana Lynch) and Amenza (Sheila Atim). Izogie is Nawi’s only friend during and after her training, while Amenza tries to get Nanisca through her emotional state.
There’s the half-Dahomey and half-Portuguese explorer Malik (Jordan Bolger) who travels to this land, and has his heart set on Nawi. It’s a forbidden love, but sparks do fly between them.
And the leader of the Oyo Empire is General Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya), who will stop at nothing to take down Dahomey, if he can get past the Agojies.
“The Woman King” allows Davis, Mbedu, Lynch, Atim, and Boyega to excel with strength and weaknesses, as they merge with their characters in various levels. They deal with orders, choices, and courage, and neither Davis nor Boyega are here to sell the picture. They’re here, because they’re supposed to be here for greater causes.
But it’s Mbedu, who really shines as a newcomer, because she has the youth and spirit, and something that distinguishes her character from other young heroines. She’s playing a girl, who wants to be a fighter, and not a lover, but she also has to learn that love helps her fight.
Does every fight scene work? No. But there are a number of fight sequences that keep us involved, and has us rooting for these brave women. We’re not seeing much box office numbers lately, since we’re in the middle of September, but I think we should focus more on “The Woman King’s” accomplishments and less on the money, because it’s so much more than that.
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