Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, this powerful historical film stars Viola Davis as the leader of the Agoggies, an elite force of female soldiers who defend a West African kingdom against their enemies. Oscar-winner Viola Davis has played a wide range of roles in both television and film, including lawyers, maids, housewives, and singers.
The battles with the Oyo and the slave traders deepen, the Agojie must recruit some fresh blood and train them well. Among them is the defiant Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) who is given up by her family because of her disobedience. Nanisca’s longtime and trusted warriors Izogie (Lashana Lynch) and Amenza (Sheila Atim) oversee the training of the new young women. The general also has to convince Dahomey’s King Ghezo (John Boyega) to be on the right side of history and condemn the slave trade which is destroying their people in exchange for weapons and commodities.
The historical saga, along the lines of an all-female Gladiator, is impressive as it builds towards an emotional crescendo of general Nanisca finally getting the recognition she worked so hard for her whole life. Based on real events, screenwriter Dana Stevens keeps the story between the strong female bonds established amongst the Agojie, old and new. As the older generation passes down their wisdom, the youngsters in turn also have something to teach them.
Although the story is set in 1823, the story’s backdrop is still prevalent with themes ranging from sexism to racism. The characters, especially Naniska, have an indelible conscience. Agojie has a “fight or die” war cry, and it’s that fearlessness that runs through the film, even as the plot falters throughout its 135-minute running time. The Woman King is a striking and powerful tale of black prominence and power.