A review of the new action film “The Woman King”

Imagine a mainstream movie both written and directed by women: respectively American Dana Stevens and African-American Gina Prince-Bythewood. Unusual but not unknown. Imagine a film in which all the leading roles are taken by black women: outstanding African-American Viola Davis in the titular role plus young South African Thuso Mbedu, black British Lashana Lynch and Ugandan Sheila Atim. Now that is really is unusual.

Next imagine a story set in the West African state of Dahomey (modern day Benin) in 1823 featuring an all-female unit of warriors who beat the male warriors of the neighbouring Oyo kingdom and free slaves from Portuguese slave traders. Now we’re talking. Well, this is “The Woman King”.

There really was such an all-female force known as the Agojie, but they didn’t achieve quite the success represented in this fictional work which, in its revisioning of history. is a bit like Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” or Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”.

Shot on location in South Africa with striking costumes and an exciting score, it looks good and it sounds good. So, if this is not history as it was so much as history as we would like it to have been, this is an exciting feel-good movie with plenty of action and a fair amount of violence.


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