The Woman King
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Viola Davis dazzles in this thrilling, action-packed account of an all-female army leading the charge against slavery in 19th-century Africa.
The Agojie, an army of fiercely brave female warriors, protect the kingdom of Dahomey against all threats, both from outside the country and within. They’re led by Nanisca (Davis), a feared, battle-scarred fighter. Along with spiritual head Amenza (Sheila Atim) and fellow soldier Izogie (Lashana Lynch), Nanisca keeps an eye on Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a young warrior trainee. She’s a welcome addition to the army – the Agojie need all the troops they can get – as Oyo empire leader Oda (Jimmy Odukoya) and Portuguese slave trader Santo Ferreira (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) are intent on profiting from Dahomey’s human population.
Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, The Old Guard) draws on the traditional epic – from Ben-Hur to Zulu – for her tale a female army fighting off colonial powers and corrupt African rulers to ensure Dahomey remains a self-governing state. Both the opening and climactic battle scenes are carried off in style, while life in King Ghezo’s (John Boyega) court contains enough intrigue to maintain tension throughout. If Dana Stevens’ screenplay cleverly balances old-school thrills with an intelligent attempt to detail the devastating impact of the slave trade on Africa, The Woman King finds its spiritual heart in Davis’ magnificent performance. She is fierce, furious and fantastic.