The Woman King Review – TIFF2022

The Woman King Review - Tiff 2022 1
The Woman King Review - Tiff 2022
The Woman King
IMDB: LINK
Director(s): Gina Prince-Bythewood
Actor(s): Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Viola Davis, John Boyega
Film Genre(s): Drama , History
Running Time: 2 min
CGM Editors Choice

The Woman King, appearing at TIFF 2022, centres on the West African kingdom of Dahomey, more specifically on the Agojie: A badass group of all-female warriors led by general Nanisca (Viola Davis). Dahomey is in the middle of conflict with the Oyo Empire, a much larger kingdom, being armed by Portuguese slave traders.

In preparation, the Agojie is training a new set of recruits, the most notable of which being Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), an orphaned girl whose abusive father tried to sell her to the kin before being sent to the Agojie instead. Nawi quickly proves to be ingeniously skilled, but her attitude makes her frequently butt heads with Nanisca.

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Right off the bat, the film immediately does not play around when it comes to the action set-pieces. The film opens with an incredible sequence where the Agojie attack an Oyo village to rescue a group of kidnapped women. The fight scenes all across The Woman King are well-shot and impressively visceral, even with a lack of blood.

“…The Woman King is genuinely unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time.”

While the movie could have coasted on just its action, director Gina Prince-Blythewood does a great job making The Woman King feel remarkably character-driven. Each of the women we focus on in the film feel like well-rounded characters. The comradery we feel as these women bond in and out of combat is energetic and beautiful to watch unfold. Speaking of which, the performances from the whole cast are fantastic.

“To see Black women at the centrepiece of a Hollywood epic like this is both refreshing and extremely overdue.”

Lashana Lynch steals nearly every scene with her pure charisma as Nanisca’s lieutenant Izogie. Newcomer Thuso Mbedu already has an impressive amount of range throughout the film. While John Boyega does not have a ton of screen time as King Ghezo, his screen presence is very much felt every time he is. However, above all else, Viola Davis simply commands the scene every moment she’s in. She has both visceral rage and cunning, but also shows immense vulnerability in the quieter moments. 

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If I had any issues with the film, there are some later plot reveals involving certain characters that I felt were only there for the sake of a twist. In addition, while the film does address Dahomey’s complicity in the slave trade (something the real Dahomey kingdom was infamous for), it’s something that also feels glossed over in the long-term.

Those issues aside, The Woman King is genuinely unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. To see Black women at the centrepiece of a Hollywood epic like this is both refreshing and extremely overdue. It’s a beautifully-shot and well-written crowd-pleaser that will likely end up as one of my favourite movies by the end of the year.

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE

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