‘The Woman King’ is a well-written, well-acted journey into African history
Viola Davis should make room on her mantle for another award.
The Oscar winner likely will get another Academy Award nomination for her outstanding performance in one of this year’s best movies, “The Woman King.”
The movie, which will probably also pick up Oscar nominations for best picture and director Gina Prince-Bythewood, is based on true events.
Ms. Davis stars as General Naniscia, the leader of Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors in the Kingdom of Dahomey, a West African nation that was powerful in the 18th and 19th centuries. (Today the kingdom is known as the People’s Republic of Benin.)
The general is trying to protect the kingdom from a rival nation led by Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukyoa) and, at the same time, convince King Ghezo (John Boyega of the “Star Wars” movies) to end his practice of selling Africans into slavery as part of the trade with the Europeans.
The story begins with one of Dahomey’s battles but also focuses on Nawi (Thuso Mbedu, another likely candidate for an Oscar nomination), a young woman whose father leaves her at the palace’s doorsteps.
Abandoned by her family, the rebellious Nawi finds her purpose with the elite force, and Nanisca takes an interest in Nawi as she works with her and the other young recruits.
The talented cast includes Lashana Lynch (“Captain Marvel”) as Izogie, who trains Nawi, and Sheila Atim as Nanisca’s friend Amenza. Ms. Lynch could well pick up an Oscar nomination for her simple but effective approach to playing Izogie.
“The Woman King” is compelling because the actresses commit completely to their characters and make every word and every action matter. This movie has an honest sense of drama and history, and it demonstrates that a society can change for the better — always a great message.
Director Prince-Bythewood’s work stands out here for bringing out strong interactions among the actors, who act and react in authentic ways. And writers Dana Stevens and Maria Bello have crafted a strong story.
“The Woman King” is about morality, politics, equality and hope, presented in a dramatic manner.
Everything works in this movie, from the locations to the cinematography to the music. And there’s a good balance between action and dialogue. The script doesn’t short-change ideas.
It’s not surprising that the film topped the box office in its first weekend.