The Woman King is a historical epic film inspired by true events, featuring the all-female Agojie warriors who protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries. The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Dana Stevens, based on a story she wrote with Maria Bello. When I saw the trailer, my opinion was tainted by the surrounding criticisms about the accents of the none African actors but after seeing The Woman King, all criticisms have evaporated. This is the most significant film I’ve ever seen about the plight of African Americans from the onset. The Woman King is a brilliant work of art!
The Woman King is set in the 1820s. The Agojie’s General Nanisca (Viola Davis) trains a new generation of warriors to fight against an enemy who wants to destroy their way of life. Issues that involve slave trading, women’s rights, survival, and freedom are threatened when Spanish, British, and American White slave traders arrive in an already oppressed Africa to purchase natives for the purpose of enslavement. This story is about the history of Dahomey, one of the richest and most lucrative empires in the West African kingdom. While Nanisca was away fighting their enemies, Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya) and his warriors from the Oyo Empire, a defiant young girl called Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), is given to King Ghezo (John Boyega). Her father exclaims that the 19-year-old is disobedient beyond his patience and ability to raise her any further. As Nawi enters the king’s compound, she proclaims “I will never marry a man who beats me”.
From this point on, you’re in for an emotional, historical story that will make you laugh at times, cheer at times, and cry at times. Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu give outstanding performances you’ll not soon forget. The action choreography will make believers out of you as the fighting was worthy of any scene you’ve ever seen before, male or female. Throughout the movie, Nanisca warned, “an evil is coming, but we have a weapon, fight or die — we are Dahomey“. Stunts had to be 90 to 100% real. The training was brutal and not all recruits were able to withstand the intense fighting. Veteran members like Izogle (Lashana Lynch) and Amenza (Sheila Atim), who are both British gave impressive performances that aided in making this movie all so real. The Woman King made $6.8 million on it’s first day and grossed $19M worldwide, as of September 20, 2022. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare average grade of “A+” on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave the film a 95% overall positive score. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 94% of 123 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The website’s consensus reads, “All hail Viola Davis! The Woman King rules.” Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “A crowd-pleasing epic — think Braveheart with Black women.” I was told to see this movie twice and bring the whole family — The Woman King is currently in theaters — Check It Out!
The Woman King is set in the kingdom of Dahomey in the year 1823. The kingdom existed from around 1600 through 1904, and the Agojie existed for most of that time. Viola Davis plays the Agojie general Nanisca, who is fictional. History vs. Hollywood speculated her name was inspired by an Agojie teenage recruit of the same name who was written about by a French naval officer in 1889. King Ghezo is a real-life figure who ruled Dahomey from 1818 to 1858.