The Woman King is the latest film to demonstrate why Viola Davis is one of the greatest. While the narrative is historically inaccurate, a twisted history resulted in an empowering movie. Davis shines as the film’s lead while almost being outdone by her tremendous co-stars. The Woman King will go down as one of the most epic films this decade has to offer. Some viewers might be turned off by the dishonest presentation, but this is a true work of art.
Basing a film on true events is nothing new, but this has already drawn a lot of attention to The Woman King. Viewers have noticed the trailer isn’t telling the whole truth about its characters. The story centers on Amazon warriors that represent the Kingdom of Dahomey, which has a dark history related to slave trades. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and writer Dana Stevens have crafted a story that doesn’t overlook the dark history. Instead, that history is converted into this inspiring theatrical accomplishment.
Davis is joined by Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and John Boyega. The Woman King takes place during the 1820s. A group of warriors led by general Nanisca (Davis) train in preparation to fight off their enemy to protect the kingdom. Stevens’ screenplay works for many reasons, but the most profound reason is that it focuses on two people seeking their purpose in life. Nanisca might be their general, but she’s had to make a lot of unfortunate sacrifices along the way. Audiences will instantly feel connected to Nanisca due to the character’s traumatic background that Davis is able to make so compelling.
As mentioned, Stevens’ doesn’t shy away from the entire truth about the Kingdom of Dahomey. Glimpses of their slave dealings are present, and we’re even shown a few questionable scenes. While this is from a heroic lens, Dahomey isn’t portrayed as an innocent kingdom. Stevens incorporates enough to allow this progressive spin to feel rewarding. One major aspect this film excels at is its fighting sequences that never disappoint. The choreography was mesmerizing, and when accompanied by the score it becomes a gripping sequence of events.
Our cast of warriors is impressive in their roles, with Lynch being the standout as Izogie. A character that has been hardened by her abusive past yet refuses to let that define who she is. Lynch emphasizes this character’s resolve through an emotional performance that left me wanting to learn more about Izogie. Mbedu is another outstanding talent, as this is deemed her breakout performance. Starring as Nawi, a young woman with several similarities to Nanisca. The Woman King doesn’t always have the best pacing, and this is most evident with certain relationships and battle sequences.
Despite that, enough is established to grow invested in the narrative and the journey these characters embark on. The screenplay does have an unnecessary Romeo and Juliet subplot that isn’t engaging when it unfolds. If this wasn’t included then certain action sequences could have been allowed time to breathe. The Woman King does feel restricted by its rating, which makes some sequences unconvincing than others. That’s why the performances are crucial as well because they make you feel attached to everything on screen.
The Woman King is a movie that might upset some people, but if given a chance, you’ll see this isn’t a glorification of Dahomey’s slave trading practices. Elements of their history are changed to present this stellar action drama film. Davis is a true pleasure to witness in any role, and she doesn’t disappoint here as Nanisca. This is an emotional, action-packed, and inspiring tale about a group of women discovering themselves and defending their kingdom.