THE WOMAN KING
The Agojie were an all-female warrior unit that protected the kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. It’s safe to say that the Dora Milaje, who protect the kingdom of Wakanda in the Marvel movie BLACK PANTHER, were inspired by the historical accuracy and fierceness of the West African Agojie. It goes without saying that these women deserved a movie of their own, and they’re getting it this fall when Gina Prince-Bythewood’s THE WOMAN KING roars into theatres on September 16.
The movie is being advertised as a showcase (and a potential awards vehicle) for Viola Davis. We caught a screening of THE WOMAN KING at TIFF, and while that’s certainly the case, there’s a secret weapon in the cast – which already is an incredible ensemble – that will have people talking as they exit the theatres.
Watch Out For Thuso Mbedu
Viola Davis plays Nanisca, the warrior leader of the Dahomey’s Agojie tribe, and her stoic gravitas serves the role and the picture well. But the standout of the movie – and part of the reason why the movie works as well as it does – is South African actress Thuso Mbedu, who plays Nawi. This defiant young woman was left in charge of the Agojie by her frustrated father, and she forges mentor-mentee relationships with the likes of Viola Davis and Lashana Lynch.
But her journey takes several difficult turns as she strives to become worthy of the membership in the Agojie. Audiences love to cheer for an underdog, and you as a viewer buy into the blood, sweat, and tears effort that Mbedu injects into this character. If ever anyone was able to steal a movie away from the powerhouse that is Viola Davis, it’s Mbedu and the magical intensity that she brings to the screen in THE WOMAN KING.
The Action Is Big-Screen Worthy
THE WOMAN KING director Gina Prince-Bythewood is coming off of the action-heavy THE OLD GUARD with action superstar Charlize Theron, and she continues to refine her fight choreography in this historical epic. Together with Daniel Hernandez, Prince-Bythewood stages BRAVEHEART-level combat sequences, but also figures out how to locate and stage intimate, character-developing moments between Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu, and Sheila Atim. There are combat moments where we break down the weaknesses of these warriors (what little there are), and show how they overcome the obstacles.
There are cheer-worthy moments in THE WOMAN KING that only can be experienced in a jam-packed movie theatre, when an audience is invested in the success of the Agojie and wondering how they will prevail over their enemies, the Oyo, who are trying to take over their tribe and conflict with King Ghezo (John Boyega).
Paced like an underdog sports drama with a star-studded and stellar ensemble, THE WOMAN KING brings a slice of history you likely aren’t familiar with to life, giving Viola Davis the action-heavy role she’s been waiting for, while shining a brighter light on the young Thuso Mbedu, who is primed to be a massive star once this drama opens at an AMC Theatre near you.
THE WOMAN KING