Film Review: THE WOMAN KING (2022): Viola Davis Commands the Viewer’s Attention in a Solid, Epic Action Picture

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The Woman King Review

The Woman King (2022) Film Review, a movie directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, written by Dana Stevens and starring Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, John Boyega, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Jimmy Odukoya, Masali Baduza, Jayme Lawson, Adrienne Warren, Chioma Antoinette Umeala, Shaina West, Sivuyile Ngesi and Angelique Kidjo.

Viola Davis gets to play an action movie role in The Woman King, a dramatic epic historical film that holds the audience’s attention as it gets to do something a bit different from anything we’ve ever seen before. For once, the women characters are center stage in an action movie, romance doesn’t really matter too much in the grand scheme of things and the men are just there in the background to display the reasoning behind the way things occur in the picture. It’s a welcome change for movie audiences who will likely embrace this picture which has a lot of fierce battle scenes and some terrific female performances thrown in for good measure.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Davis portrays General Nanisca whose presence is a force larger than life as she first comes onto the screen. Nanisca is the Agojie commander who must fight to protect her fellow warrior women from those who threaten their very existence. In this role, Davis is excellent at playing a character she has never really played before. She’s done roles in films set in different time periods but this picture truly suits a side to the actress we’ve never quite experienced before and it’s a revelation to see her become an action hero right before our eyes.

This film is set in 1823 in West Africa. In the beginning, the movie unveils its premise as the land of Dahomey gets invaded by the Oyo Empire headed by Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya, who plays a terrific villain). John Boyega serves as King Ghezo while Thuso Mbedu plays a teenage girl named Nawi whose father gives her to the King when she is uncooperative with the dad’s plans for her future. The gift of Nawi to the King is intercepted by Izogie (Lashana Lynch, always superb). Izogie sees a tremendous amount of potential in Nawi and takes her under her wing.

Nanisca has a past with Oba Ade which helps make the plot threads come together extremely well even if the film does have some parts that are slower than was expected. This picture stops for quite a few breaths along the way but when it displays action sequences to the audience, they are absolutely done with overwhelming intensity. This movie’s best scenes are when Nanisca is on screen. Davis makes this part her own and it is impossible to look away whenever she is on the screen.

Boyega, a big star in his own right, surprises by playing second fiddle to Davis’ character. Boyega has a showy role here to be sure as a King with a lot of passion who is becoming a little too comfortable in his lifestyle. Nanisca challenges him to adapt to the changing times in order to protect the way of life that they are accustomed to.

Mbedu’s Nawi is the most relatable character in the movie. Her quest for integrity is a good juxtaposition to the way the action of the movie takes flight. Nawi wants to live a life that is only able to be achieved through fighting for it. She’s lived a hard life and in Nanisca, she will eventually find the comfort she so deserves to discover in her life.

You can say what you want about this picture in regards to its uneven pacing but the towering performance by Davis ultimately makes one yearn for more female characters in the movies who are willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good. Nanisca is the role Davis was born to play. She is probably going to get a lot of recognition for this role and rightfully so.

It also must be said that Lashana Lynch more than holds her own beside the talented cast of this picture and comes up with a distinct screen presence that is absolutely unforgettable. Izogie is the reason Nawi is able to achieve what she does during the course of the movie. The dynamic between Mbedu and Lynch is absolutely breathtaking to behold. It’s like listening to a finely conducted opus.

Despite a few key scenes that could have been more detailed, The Woman King amazes in many departments. The look of the film is spectacular with sharp, fierce action scenes that are realistic and easy to follow. Prince-Bythewood and Viola Davis are the most valuable players here and Davis shines thanks to the chemistry of the cast which is certainly commendable. These performers, as a group, are a well-oiled machine that makes the movie a success. Also, stay put as the credits roll as there is a mid-credits scene that is really quite intriguing to behold.

See The Woman King for quite a few particular reasons. But, at the top of that list of reasons to see the film is the always formidable Viola Davis who could end up getting a nomination or two for this performance. She’s the “Woman King” of Hollywood and deserves to be commended for her towering work in this film.

Leave your thoughts on this The Woman King review and the film below in the comments section.