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The Woman King - Viola Davis, John Boyega, Thuso Mbedu - Movie Review

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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4lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD



The Woman King

With all the action movies starring macho men that dominate the screen, it is welcome and refreshing to see an epic saga that centers around a team of kick-ass females, whose story is told from their point of view. Forget Wonder Woman or even Black Panther that featured women warriors. Both were derived from comic books unlike the women depicted in The Woman King, an epic saga, which was inspired (I.e. loosely based on) by actual historical events involving an all female army of African warriors in the 1820's. In other words, like many of its predecessors based on true events, The Woman King employs creative license, blending some facts within a mostly fictionalized storyline.

Set in the West African kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin), the film stars a pumped up, oiled, Viola Davis, delivering a fierce, commanding performance, as General Nanisca, the fearless leader of the Agojie, a band of extraordinary, all black, female warriors who serve King Ghezo (a regal, restrained John Boyega). The Agolie are trained to protect their homeland from attacks by the Oyo Empire (present day Nigeria) led by arch enemy, the brutal General Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya) who is hell-bent on abducting their people and selling them to European traders as slaves. The film makes it clear that Dahomey also participated and profited from the sale of their captured enemies as slaves, but proposes that the King wanted his slave trade to stop and, instead, wanted to get into the business of producing and selling Palm Oil, which Nanisca strongly advocated.

Enter Nawi (Thuso Mbedu of  The Underground Railroad), a rebellious, 19 year old young woman, who is dropped off at the King's palace as a “gift” by her adopted father after she defies his orders to marry a much older, rich and abusive man that wanted her as his slave wife. Soon, Nawi becomes part of the new generation of Agojie recruits. We then watch as she goes though the physical challenges of the grueling training program, where, determined to be the best, she learns to fight with machetes (sharp enough to behead any man), spears, fists, ropes and a newly developed strength.

As the story unfolds, Nawi proves to be a formidable warrior, and integrates herself among this sisterhood and their impenetrable bond, whose allegiance to their king and the fight to keep their homeland safe comes with a cost; a warrior code that each of the women must adhere to: They will not marry and they will bear no children. In a subplot, that steadfast rule is tested for Nawi after she encounters a hunky, biracial trader from Portugal named Malik (Jordan Bolger),  the son of a white father, and mother who was a Dahomey slave, that leads to a budding romance.

Meanwhile, Nanisca is struggling with her own personal issues involving nightmares from a past traumatic experience that left her with an emotional and mental scar in addition to the physical scars left from battles.

Davis is magnificent, bringing both strength and vulnerability to her character whose unflinching, tough exterior belies an anguished soul ridden with pain and guilt. As a result of this outstanding performance, odds are the Oscar winner will likely garner a nomination for Best Actress.

Other stand outs in the powerful ensemble cast are rising star Thuso Mbedu as the headstrong Nawi, who comes into her own; Lashana Lynch as Lieutenant/drill sargeant Izogie; and Sheila Atim as Naniscas's right hand woman, spiritual advisor and confidante, Amenza.

Despite a glaring, improbable contrivance in the storyline, for the most part, director Gina Prince-Bythewood (2020's The Old Guard, 2008's Secret Life of Bees) working from a script by   Dana Stevens (from a story she co-wrote with Maria Bello)  delivers the goods in this action packed blockbuster featuring well choreographed battle scenes, acts of heroism, bravery, loyalty, sacrifice and revenge reminiscent of Gladiator, 300 and Braveheart to name a few of that genre.

Female driven and just as thrilling than any male driven action packed film, The Woman King, written, directed, shot and edited by women, is a rousing celebration of female empowerment, and an engaging crowd pleaser definitely worth seeing.




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