A pleasant surprise, The Woman King, a loosely historical based picture, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, is packed with adrenaline-filled action scenes and important discussions, highlighting the value of black empowerment and protagonism.
In the 19th century, in the west african kingdom of Dahomey, a group of female warriors, the Agojie, are fighting the slaver trader kingdom of Oyo, a threat to Dahomey’s own sovereignty. Leading the group is Nanisca (Viola Davis), a fearless and tough fighter, the king’s most trusted citizen, whose feelings are hidden behind a hard shell.
However, the straining of the already bad relation between kingdoms coincide with the arrival of the new recruits, between them Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a fierce and stubborn young woman, an engaging addition to the loyal warriors Izogie (Lashana Lynch) and Amenza (Sheila Atim) and a key to the leader’s past.
The great acting is shown through the several extreme but heartfelt moments. The fighters are conveyed to be more than a team, they are a family, and, even in the hardest moments, strength is shown through female bravery and working as a united front.
It’s extremely relevant to reiterate the quality of the fights, the complex choreography is the soul of the action film. Nonetheless, the message is their main course, the exploitation of the slave trade, the power of the women and how society perceives them turn the historical questions into a rather present and pertinent theme.
On the other hand, the lack of historical accuracy, given Dahomey was an active agent in the trade economy, the predictability of part of the plot and the more an objective and simpler approach to the discussion could work as a factor for detachment of certain viewers.
Overall, the movie serves its purpose of spreading the relevance of African history, the importance of female power and the need of black voices. Very warming and nerve-wracking, it is really a great watch.