‘The Woman King’ Review

‘The Woman King’ Review: A Celebration of African Culture on a Never Seen Before Scale

Africa is a continent brimming with untold stories about its culture and heritage, while there are countless stories to be told about ancient cultures, kingdoms, kings, and queens, these stories barely get adapted into movies, and those that do either have a disappointing budget or a disappointing result.

Back in 2021, Netflix tried to tap into one of these stories, particularly one about Africa’s renowned female warrior, Amina. The result was a ludicrous story, aided by terrible action sequences. While the film went on to dominate 2022’s AMVCA, the audience’s cravings for an adaptation of African culture they can be proud of remained unsatisfied, until now.

The journey that started seven years ago, following a pitch from Maria Bello to Viola Davis, finally bore fruition following years of production hiatus, the unwillingness of studios to fund an action movie about female African warriors, and the miracle of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther which swiftly changed the movement.

‘The Woman King’ Review

With a cast and crew of mostly females, this female-led story proves to be one we can all be proud of. The Woman King follows the Agojie, the all-female warrior unit that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries. Set in the 1820s, the film stars Viola Davis as a general who trains the next generation of warriors to fight their enemies.

From our first introduction to the Agojie, striking the enemy outpost in the dead of night, rising from the tall grass with blades drawn, quickly cutting their opponents to pieces, and freeing the slaves from their ‘oppressors’, it was immediately clear what kind of story was about to be told. While this story based on historical events doesn’t completely follow history as it was, the tweaks only aided in it becoming a beautifully told story about feminism and freedom.

Written by Dana Stevens(Fatherhood) alongside actress Maria Bello(Prisoners, NCIS), this is a story that understands what it wants and sets out to get it. The story with several subplots tackled them diligently while fleshing out its characters through various twists and turns. This is a film that is presented with a strong feminist and anticolonialism vibe, but at its core is a film about the relationship between an estranged mother and child, and the process of dealing with trauma.

The stacked cast of several African descents delivered effortlessly, and quoting a sentence that has been used quite a lot since the film’s debut, “this was the role they’ve all been waiting to play”. Viola Davis (HTGAWM, Fences), Thuso Mbedu(Underground Railroad, Shuga), Lashana Lynch(Captain Marvel, No Time to Die), Sheila Atim(Bruised, Doctor Strange 2), John Boyega(Attack on the Block, The Last Jedi), and Nigeria’s very own, Jimi Odukoya(The Bling Lagosians, I Am Nazzy), while they all played very different characters, each of them dominates the movie and feels like the main focus anytime they appeared on the screen. Madam Angelique Kidjo is a pleasure to look at on screen, as she is to hear on the soundtrack.

‘The Woman King’ Review

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood who had previously directed Love & Basketball and The Old Guard is a master at drama and female-centric action scenes. She brings together these elements into this film perfectly and balanced them accordingly. Cinematographer Polly Morgan(A Quiet Place II, Legion) created a magical scenery with the visuals of this film, with scenes that could pass as a painting of that era. Composer Terrence Blanchard, a frequent collaborator with Spike Lee gives a new breath of life to the film with music that captures and elevates the African heritage.

The costume department delivers beyond measures in both the glam and combatant elements, the location setting is a masterpiece capturing the aged essence of castles and towers built with mud. Editor Terilyn A. Shropshire(Bruised, Old Guard) gives the film the last touch of perfection and brings all the beautiful elements to life in all their glory. The stunts and choreography department delivers astonishingly well with fight and dance scenes that elevate the spirit in you.

While there are a few instances of actors butchering the African accents, this is forgivable as The Woman King delivers effortlessly in every other part, this is a film that celebrates African culture and one you should be seeing as fast as you can.

Rating: 9/10

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