The Reel Review
Viola Davis stars in this historical action/drama about the Agojie, the women warriors of the pre-colonial, West African Kingdom of Dahomey. Set in 1834, as the neighboring Oyo tribe approaches with plans to capture and sell Dahomey’s people to European slave traders, the Agojie must fight to maintain their freedom while finding a new path to replace slavery as their own chief export.
The Woman King is everything anyone could want in a historical melodrama – a compelling tale in the epic spirit of Braveheart with interesting characters, well-choreographed battle scenes and an inspiring lesson in personal growth and triumph. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard, Love and Basketball) paints a larger-than-life portrait of the era, despite a predictable, contrived script that clumsily tries to navigate the Dahomey’s own complicated history of enslaving their own region’s people.
Oscar winner Davis (Fences) is magnificent as Nanisca, with a solid supporting cast that includes Thuso Mbedu (The Underground Railroad) as the feisty new recruit, a terrific Lashana Lynch (No Time to Die) as the veteran Izogie who trains her, and Sheila Atim (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) as Nanisca’s main assistant, Amenza. The Woman King is an excellent African historical drama that exceeds 2018’s Black Panther by being just as entertaining, while also being based on actual fact.
• Producer/actress Maria Bello came up with the premise for The Woman King during a visit to modern day Benin. Stuck in development for many years, the film was finally greenlit with a $50 million budget following the success of 2018’s Black Panther, earning more than $92 million at the box office.
• The cast of The Woman King trained for five hours a day for four months prior to filming in South Africa.
• Lashana Lynch won the role of Izogie in the film after Lupita Nyong’o turned it down.
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