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The Woman King – REVIEW

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Whilst a horde of marauding women battering and laying waste to a tribe of men is perhaps more readily associated with an Essex hen night there’s not a bottle of WKD in sight for this is the Agojie tribe, the real life band of 19th century no nonsense female warriors in the East African state of Dahomey. The Agojie were several hundred years ahead of the #TimesUp movement and made o a point to any man thinking they could subjugate them – the point was usually on the end of a spear the Agojie would impale them on.

Here they are led by General Nanisca (Viola Davis as on point as ever) leader of King Ghezo (John Boyega) army but wanting him to rethink his strategy of selling his people to white European slavers. At the same time the Agojie have a number of new recruits to supplement the women they lost in battle and amongst their probationer pugilists is Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) a strong willed independent minded woman refusing to be married off to a number of suitors her adoptive parents have lined up for her. Rejecting what her culture imposes on her Nawi finds herself increasingly at home amongst the warrior women all of a similar mind set and it is this single minded spirit that draws her to the attention of Izpogie (Lashana Lynch) as suitable for training with  her and the women warriors

The Woman King presents unified and empowered black women as committed to each other as they to their training and it’s the men who are generally seen as needing to learn with perhaps only John Boyega’s polygamist King seen to be learning from his mistakes. There is a dichotomy at the centre of this and it is  the women notably Davis’ Woman King who identifies this telling Boyega, ‘Let’s not be an empire that sells our people’ that challenges the belief that the slavers came in sweeping up  indigenous people as and when they wanted effectively making the King as much an oppressor of his own people as the white European slavers.

White heterosexual testosterone fuelled action dramas are given short sharp shrift in the Women King, a drama that is something of a refreshing revelation and a challenge to the Hollywood norm with a decent budget and enthralling and frequently bloody battles that plays like ‘300’ for women. There’s uniformly excellent performances not only from Viola Davis (which is a given in whatever she appears in) but Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu and Sheial Atim are superb but it’s Boyega who gets the obligatory inspirational speech towards the end for both his people and modern day audiences.

Here’s The Woman King trailer….

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