The Woman King (Action, Drama, History) (2022)
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Writer: Dana Stevens, Maria Bello
Stars: Thuso Mbedu, Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, John Boyega
Under King Ghezo of the Dahomey Kingdom, an all-female force fights for their lands, facing the Oyo Empire as their rivals.
Previously showing themes of female empowerment, ‘’The Woman King’’ might stand as Gina Prince-Bythewood’s most notable film yet. Highlighting a period on the soil of modern-day southern Benin and the woman referred to by Western Europe as the Dahomey Amazons—also known as the Agojie. Writer Maria Bello instigated production for such a film, travelling to West Africa to learn of Dahomey history. It has been produced by TriStar Pictures, Entertainment One, TSG Entertainment II, JuVee Productions and Welle Entertainment while distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing.
After many attempts by her father to be married, Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) is offered to King Ghezo (John Boyega) and assigned to be trained as one of the Agojie due to recent losses in number. Her strong-willed nature carries her through training, quickly befriending Izogie (Lashana Lynch). Conflict with the Oyo Empire and their allies in Portuguese slave traders ensues as Ghezo’s Kingdom fights for their own.
Inspired by true stories of the Dahomey and Oyo territories, focusing on the Agojie warriors. Prince-Bythewood, Stevens and Bello present an inspiring epic, showing the strength of women in this African setting. Protecting your own and crushing the pride of opposers strongly display as audience attachment to this fairly unique fighting force rapidly grows.
To see a topic such as in ‘’The Woman King’’ presented is obviously refreshing; in recent years, films such as ‘’Black Panther’’ have delivered on similar themes, but this time it’s a truthful tale, an epic based on history comparable to ‘’Braveheart’’, ‘’300’’ and ‘’Gladiator’’. Despite the principally unexplored and overlooked setting, it’s a film written as tried and true, empowering but undoubtedly accessible.
Alongside the ever-intimidating Davis as Nanisca, we follow Lynch’s Izogie, Mbedu’s Nawi, as well as Atim’s Amenza and Boyaga’s King Ghezo. I was glad to see the inclusion of Mbedu’s Nawi, especially who makes her feature debut replacing the initially cast Lupita Nyong’o, giving a young star a chance to rise amongst stellar performances by Lynch and Davis. They’re mostly contained within the walls of Ghezo’s fortress, and training grounds as bonds gradually develop. As mentioned, it’s not an incredibly deep film, often touching expected topics with a few honestly rather shallow plot twists.
The vision here is capable and even admirable, but there’s an overbearing feeling of untouched potential. Subjects such as slavery are vital to the time ‘’The Woman King’’ plays out, and while it’s a red thread throughout, historical accuracy limits itself to provide a positive spin. Much like most historical dramas, liberties are taken, and that’s more than fair. Prince-Bythewood nevertheless provides thoroughly entertaining content about a mostly uncharted history.
There’s a king amongst queens.