“The Woman King” is a triumph of epic proportions

The film, which stars Viola Davis, Thuso Mbeda, John Boyega and Lashana Lynch, is much more than a movie.

After months of anticipation, “The Woman King” is finally in theaters and the film, led by Oscar-winner Viola Davis, is not just a movie, but a movement.

“The Woman King” is the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, “The Woman King” follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca (Viola Davis) as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. Some things are worth fighting for…

Image from “The Woman King” via Sony (Ilze Kitshoff)

“The Woman King” is such a triumph of epic proportions, it’s hard to convey the impact it could have on the industry and the community. Never have we seen Black women represented like this onscreen, and never have we been allowed to contextualize or participate in this portion of our history as anything other than victims.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who proved long ago that her work could stand up against the best of the best with projects like “Love and Basketball” and “The Old Guard,” “The Woman King” is so expertly guided by her hand, it would not have been the same film without her.

Image from “The Woman King” via Sony (Ilze Kitshoff)

Prince-Bythewood manages to convey the immeasurable pain of certain moments without actually forcing us to witness the brutality we’re usually subjected to when revisiting our tortured past. There is heart and humanity in every frame and a defiant dignity applied, even when depicting some of the more shameful elements of the story. 

The characters in the film are multi-faceted, portraying moments of pure joy and excitement, and peril and violence, always with special attention paid to the beauty of a people that are not usually depicted as self sufficient, strong, silly, smart, or self-possessed onscreen. The women we see in this film are empowered and committed and clever and loving; they are deep thinkers and savage killers, loyal friends and strategic soldiers. 

“The Woman King” is also just flat out entertaining. The chiseled physiques of the actors executing carefully choreographed fight scenes, the ornate costumes and stirring music from the continent punctuates the story that’s full of drama and interjected with humor. The film takes viewers on a wide-ranging journey of emotions throughout its 2-hour-and-14-minute runtime.

The performances from Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, John Boyega, Lashana Lynch and others made it easy to connect with the characters from the very beginning, and the elaborate scenery and costuming transported us to a place we’ve never really been allowed to go.

Dwandalyn Reece, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Viola Davis, Shiela Atim, Cathy Shulman and Julius Tennon speak onstage during THE WOMAN KING Special Screening at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on September 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Entertainment)

While there are certainly parallels to draw between the impact of this film and “Black Panther,” what sets it apart is that while Marvel’s masterpiece allowed us to imagine what we could be, “The Woman King” dares us to imagine what we actually have been.

It is a battle cry and staunch reminder that we are and always have been a deeply powerful people, virtually unstoppable when we are united and so easily overtaken when we allow our enemies to divide us.

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