Viola Davis roars on screen in this historical epic film inspired by the kingdom of Dahomey, Africa in the 18th century. As the leader of the Agojie, the all-female army that protects the kingdom, Nanisca confronts the slave trade in the continent and personal challenges as she fights to protect their king.
The Woman King does a solid job of combining brilliant fighting scenes choreographed to perfection and a captivating tale of family and loss in this community that has not been captured on film before. It’s a modern-day epic film with equal parts action and drama, albeit with some unnecessary scenes and shortened character arcs to make for a truly unforgettable experience.
Davis leads the story with the right amount of gravitas and captures attention whenever she is on screen. She leans into the more active stunts and fighting sequences with ease and also plays the emotional part of her role as necessary. As a character with a brutal past, she is able to bring empathy to the role and bridge all the emotions of the film when it feels scattered at times.
Other performers Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu, and John Boyega are equally as decent in their roles, even with their characters lacking as much oomph as Davis and more limited backstories. Many are sidelined and their impact feels a bit more limited in the wider story, even if they are still valuable for the film.
The writing itself from Maria Bello and Dana Stevens is some of the weaker elements of the film. It lacks the tension and thrills of other recent action flicks and doesn’t quite balance the varying genres that comprise the film. Fortunately director Gina Prince-Bythewood brings top tier detailing, and all the action scenes hit the mark, still allowing the audience to feel surprised with how the story evolves. Moreover the ability to keep the grand story to a sharp 2 hours and 15 minutes is a feat in itself.
The Woman King does a great job depicting a part of history very few are familiar with. For superhero or actions lovers, they may wish more was included in the final cut, but for those with a wider appreciation of the African history, landscape and culture, will feel the story come alive and satisfy. It’s another brilliant outing by Viola Davis that should earn her plenty of accolades.