Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Writer: Dana Stevens
Starring: Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and John Boyega
The Woman King is a historical epic, written by Dana Stevens and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. While rooted in history, it’s a full-on action-filled story, that’s completely different to most big budget blockbusters that are being released currently. Instead of relying on CGI for the grand battles, there’s realistic and authentic combat fights. All of the action scenes are thrilling to watch and incredibly well shot. Within the chaotic battles it’s still easy to follow what’s going on, with some exciting stunts and fighting. The scale of the fights is immense and feels authentic. It’s brutal and frenzied and is full of spectacle.
Even with the grand scale of the kingdom and everything that’s going on around it, the story is very focused, mainly revolving around General Nanisca, played by Viola Davis, and Nawi, played by Thuso Mbedu. Nanisca is a seasoned warrior, who is helping shape the kingdom, while Nawi is in training, rebelling against orders and not wanting to stick to tradition. Both characters are really well written, and brought to life by incredible performances. Viola Davis is beyond excellent in this film, as is Thuso Mbedu. There are a lot of characters in the film, but there’s not a lot of depth to most of them, with the spectacle of the battles being the focus. More frustrating is the film’s length, which does start to drag at points.
While the film has a historical setting, it’s worth noting that it’s not very accurate to history. Most of the characters are either completely fictional or the amalgamation of several people. There’s a lot of dramatic licence used and it does make the film a little messy. It does show a conflict within the kingdom about their involvement in the slave trade, with General Nanisca being completely against selling slaves and wanting to find profit trading palm oil, but it doesn’t really dive into the history in a meaningful way beyond acknowledging that it’s where the kingdom made its wealth and it’s a dark cycle that needs to be broken. There’s some good scenes about this, but they’re not the driving force of the story. It’s not trying to be a documentary, and while that may put some people off, if anything it should spark people to go and read more about it.
Despite not being that accurate to history, The Woman King is an epic action film, with some excellent and grounded fight choreography that’s incredibly refreshing in the world of CGI blockbusters that we live in.
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