MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
The Woman King - In Theaters
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu
I have always been a big fan of historical epics that feature heroic leaders, but I am also aware that most of the best stuff in these movies is created by the filmmakers. The Woman King is a grand entertainment that tells the true story of the Agojie warriors, a 19th century all-woman army from the West African kingdom of Dahomey that assisted their king in fighting off the rival Oyo empire and their complicity with slave traders.
Well, that’s kinda sorta how it went. Or at least that’s how the alternate history of The Woman King decides to tell the tale. But if you want to know history, read history. If you want to watch a movie that is exciting and thought-provoking, filled with larger-than-life characters, exhilarating fights, and moments of redemption, The Woman King is not to be missed.
Viola Davis commands the screen as General Nanisca, a leader that demands discipline from her warriors and chooses to fight alongside them when it’s time for battle (and she has the scars to prove it). She is also thoughtful and resourceful in her dealings with King Ghezo (John Boyega). It’s still mostly a man’s world, but Nanisca has full autonomy to run the show her way, assisted by her second-in-command Amenza (Sheila Atim) and trustworthy lieutenant Izogie (Lashana Lynch).
One day a teenager named Nawi (Mbedu) is left with the tribe by her father after refusing an arranged marriage. Much of the film follows Nawi’s transformation from a rejected nobody into a member of an elite fighting force, through boot camp, tribal competitions and times of active combat.
Although many of the big fight scenes are full of CGI enhancements, the physicality of hand-to-hand combat is great to see, demanding much from its cast and stunt performers. (I’m not sure that a romantic subplot was necessary, but even that is handled in a brisk and efficient manner.)
The film is also noteworthy for its South Africa location filming, beautiful cinematography, a stirring musical score by Terence Blanchard, and an intelligent script by Dana Stevens. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood has made one of the best films of 2022.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: Strong performances and thrilling battle scenes create a memorable and epic adventure.
Four pitchforks: Intense graphic violence; brutality; misogyny; slavery; mild swearing – including subtitled Portuguese cussing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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