The Woman King (2022)

Posted in Reviews by - December 28, 2022
The Woman King (2022)

This film about the Agojie – an all-fighting, all-woman military regiment of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey – is based on some semblance of fact. Although its coming-of-age story about a young underdog hero might carry the faint whiff of Hollywood contrivance, there is great passion in the film’s postmodern storytelling and scenes of violent retribution, which see the Agojie laying waste to European slave traders with wild, gut-busting relish. Although it may lean on a number of predictable plot devices, the screen is littered with landmark moments, and scenes of great power and resonance. The world-building from director Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard) is evocative, bolstered by stunning locations, costumes, music, and remarkable performances. Thuso Mbedu is fabulous as a poor 18-year-old who is abandoned by her family and left on the doorstep of the Agojie. She endures their severe training to rise in the ranks and become an expert fighter, in spite of her rebellious spirit. Her mentor is the battle-scarred warrior, General Nanisca (Viola Davis), a close confident of King Ghezo (John Boyega), who stands as a defiant symbol of both power and progress. She commands the Agojie with a fierce authority, but privately, she carries the mental scars of a life forged in rage. Despite the horrors she has seen, she is also a symbol of hope – trying to convince the King to stop profiteering from the slave trade and instead focus its financial aims on Dahomey’s bounty of natural resources. The role demands an intensely physical, muscular, and fierce performance from its star and co-producer, the 57-year-old Viola Davis, who is magnetic in the lead.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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