The Woman King – Movie Review

TL;DR – A powerful film of courage in the face of insurmountable odds.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid to watch this film

The Agojie rise from the grass.

The Woman King Review

It is now time for us to take a look at the final film before we finalise our best of 2022 lists. The Woman King was a film that I tried to see several times when it was in cinemas, but the times never lined up. Indeed, I could only add it to the run-down because it just dropped on-demand. But in a year of stellar action films, we have another understanding contender to add to the mix.

So to set the scene, in West Africa in 1823, a new king Ghezo (John Boyega), has just ascended to power in the Kingdom of Dahomey. But they are under attack from the Oyo Empire, who have been pillaging Dahomey villages using proxies to sell the people to the Europeans as slaves to work in the plantations of Brazil. Ghezo is on the losing side of this war, but he has one last strength: the Agojie, led by Nanisca (Viola Davis). It is a time of castigation as many forces move inside and outside the palace, and it is uncertain if Dahomey can survive the coming storm.    

Nanisca addresses the king.
Viola Davis is a tour de force here. Image Credit: Sony.

What The Woman King does well is understanding that after a big block of expositional text, you need to set the film’s tone immediately. They do that by having an action sequence that rivals The Northman for the best takedown of a village in 2022 cinema. Rising from the grass, the Agojie make an instant statement, like a pride of lionesses ready to strike from cover. Here, we see the Agojie in full flight as they dismantle their opposition. The Agojie was the organisation that inspired Dora Milaje in Black Panther. The film understands this and knows it has to bring a significant impact, which it does.    

There is much discussion about how closely this film matches real-world events and places. I will not get into the weeds on that because I am not equipped to have a qualified position on African history. But for me personally, it is not so much of an issue if they don’t meet completely. Firstly, much of the sub-text and the literal text was about connecting and conversing with a modern audience. Also, using a real-world location and time to tell a fictional story is a popular narrative technique. I mean, there are some directors that build their entire careers in this space.

Smoke covers the battlefield.
The Woman King is a visual delight. Image Credit: Sony.

Coming into this film, I did not know that the main story would revolve around Nawi (Thuso Mbedu). However, from a narrative perspective, this was a good idea because it gave us an audience insert character who is learning about the realities of the Agojie at the same time as we do. We get to see all the different steps and obligations the women go through before becoming an Agojie while also getting an outsider’s perspective on some of the traditions that rule the society. There are times when Nawi gets a bit frustrating as a character, but that feels by design rather than by accident, as you can feel Nanisca’s frustrations with her.   

The next strength is the absolute commitment of the actors to the film. It is not shocking that Viola Davis put in a commanding performance here. Indeed, I have never seen a movie of hers where that is not the case. However, here she is elevated to the next level and gets to give one of the best ‘rally the troops’ speeches I have seen in a while. Sheila Atim and Lashana Lynch bring a physicality to this film that it desperately needs. Every moment they are on screen, they are captivating because there is power and purpose in every move they make, every word they say, and every blow they strike. Jimmy Odukoya is the perfect villain in Oba, as are the Portuguese colonisers trying to keep the slave trade going.

Advisors stand in purple robes.
I loved all the details in the costume design. Image Credit: Sony.

In the end, do we recommend The Women King? Yes, yes, we would. In a year that was already full of stand-out action films, it jumped to the top as a real contender for the end-of-year awards. If you liked The Woman King, we would recommend to you Prey.

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you watched The Woman King?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us
Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day. 

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Woman King
Directed by
– Gina Prince-Bythewood
Story by – Maria Bello & Dana Stevens
Screenplay by – Dana Stevens
Music by – Terence Blanchard
Cinematography by – Polly Morgan
Edited by – Terilyn A. Shropshire
Production/Distribution Companies – TriStar Pictures, Entertainment One, TSG Entertainment II, JuVee Productions, Welle Entertainment & Sony Pictures
Starring – Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, John Boyega, Jordan Bolger, Jimmy Odukoya, Masali Baduza, Jayme Lawson, Adrienne Warren, Siv Ngesi, Angélique Kidjo, Zozibini Tunzi, Makgotso M, Thando Dlomo, Julian Tennon, Wanda Banda, Lethabo & Joel Mukadi
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: PG-13

4 thoughts on “The Woman King – Movie Review

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