REVIEW | From Thuso Mbedu to Lashana Lynch, The Woman King wows with its depiction of all-woman warriors

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Thuso Mbedu
Thuso Mbedu
Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images
  • The Woman King boasts a woman-led lead cast of talented actors, which includes Thuiso Mbedu.
  • Though inspired by historically true events, the movie does not necessarily reflect that.
  • It's qualities as an action film and having Black women at the centre of the story is among its strong traits.

When you hear the title of the movie, The Woman King, you’re probably expecting to see a woman in a position of power and a very masculine style of leadership with little to no heart, right? But not in this film.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, who’s also behind some of our favourite films such as Love and Basketball, and The Secret Life of Bees - to name a few, the film is a historical epic inspired by true events. The story is set in the Kingdom of Dahomey, which is located in what we now know as Benin,  one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries.

READ MORE | Zozibini Tunzi, Makgotso M and more familiar faces you will see alongside Thuso Mbedu in The Woman King

The beginning of the film sees a group of men lounging at the center of a field by a campfire. They hear rustling in the tallgrass and see a flock of birds fly away on a breeze. Suddenly, an intimidating Nanisca (played by Viola Davis) - who is the world-weary Agojie general - emerges from the grass armed with a machete, followed by an entire platoon that appears behind her. The ensuing slaughter of the men leaves the women left unharmed but the village is soaked in delirious bloodshed. This is part of the warrior ensemble’s mission to free their imprisoned kin. Nanisca, however, loses so many comrades in the process that she decides to train a new batch of recruits.

Shortly after, we get introduced to Nawi (played by Thuso Mbedu) a rebellious teenager who is offered up as a gift to the young King Ghezo ( played by John Boyega) by her domineering father, due to his frustration with his stubborn daughter’s refusal to marry the many suitors he chose. Nawi, however, never makes it to the King, as the fearless yet fun warrior Izogie (played by Lashana Lynch) sees Nawi’s resistance as a strength and enlists her in Nanisca’s training.

Thuso mbedu
The Woman King

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The story also has a plot twist that audiences do not see coming that throws a serious spanner in the works for Nanisca.

The accents will certainly throw you off in the beginning and some practices may appear to be the typical Western depiction of Africa. However, the sheer pleasure of The Woman King resides in the bond shared by these Black women, the strength they display and the pride they have for their kinfolk as they aim to break the Oyo tribe's involvement in the slave trade.

The movie’s love story is seen between these women as they commit to each other as much as they do to their gruelling training. Tough and forced to be guarded as they are, the women still possess nurturing qualities and care for one another.

The movie is a solid 3,5 for its overall entertainment value and being an authentic Black woman-centred action film. It also evokes quite a bit of emotion as some scenes truly tug at your heartstrings - be it serious or comical. The movie's depiction of the Agojie warriors is also not from an oppressive gaze that makes them appear to resent being there, but rather as women who exist in a safe space, are free and genuinely happy. It does not, unfortunately, get the historical facts correct since the movie was only inspired by true events so maybe just watch it for entertainment purposes and not necessarily to get an accurate reflection of the times.

The film is now showing in cinemas.

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