The Woman King | Movie Review

When one thinks of grand battle scenes in epic war dramas, movies such as “Braveheart,” “1917,” and “Dunkirk” come to mind, followed by a long list of films that inspire the audience and pull them in to root and mentally join the battles of the “good guys.” “The Woman King” brings a whole new essence to this genre, perhaps even beginning a new trend in war movies altogether.  

Did I mention that the “good guys” in this movie are a group of formidable, fierce and sometimes frightening South African ladies?  

Yep. And to be clear, you should call them ladies, if you dare to even speak to them. The villagers in the movie have such a fear and reverence for these ladies, they avoid looking them in the eye as their army passes by.

The film is based on the real-life, all-female army of the Agojie, a group of unmarried women who pledged all they had to defending their kingdom against their slave-trading enemies. Led by the imposing General Nanisca (played exquisitely by Viola Davis), the army of ladies trains, supports and encourages one another while grappling with their own emotions and internal conflicts.  

Frame by frame, the audience is kept immersed in intense action and determination. Yet, at the same time, the fierce and focused women warriors are able to show us incredible depth as friends, sisters and loving colleagues.  

It is very difficult for me to see anything wrong with a Viola Davis project. She is spectacular as always, and we see once again how expert she is at digging into the very core of a character. Her posture, her walk, her facial expressions and even her small grunts of disgust or approval are perfectly choreographed with a depth that is unmatched by most actresses of her caliber. Davis is so focused that viewers are drawn into her complex thoughts even as she exhibits a blank, emotionless stare.

The supporting cast is fantastic, and each one of them offers a stand-out, memorable performance. John Boyega is superb as the conflicted King Ghezo. Sheila Atim provides a luminescent portrayal of  the solid  Amenza, Nanisca’s lieutenant general and oldest friend. The magnificent Lashana Lynch plays the indefatigable and brave Izogie who trains the arrogant, yet firey and loyal Nawi (“Underground Railroad’s” wonderful Thuso Mbedu).

Parts of the movie may move a bit slowly at first. The brief spots of unevenness sandwich a somewhat rushed love story, which seems out of place yet believable. Still, even with a few minute glitches, the film is powerful, entrancing and nail biting.  You must see it in theaters and it is worth the ticket price.  My grade: A

“The Woman King” opens in theaters on September 16, 2022 and is rated PG-13 for brief nudity and violence.  Running time is 2 hours and 14 minutes.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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