The Woman King. Quick Review.

Viola Davis can give absolutely anything gravitas. There is a clip from Season One of How to Get Away With Murder that exemplifies this perfectly. she has to deliver a blatantly ridiculous Shonda Rhimes-Esque plot reveal in the most on-the-nose way possible. Yet she delivers said line as if it is demanded in a Royal Shakespeare Company. In this way, it makes sense that she won her Oscar for a decidedly strategy theatre adaptation. The prospect of Davis leading an action movie/ historical epic. in the aftermath of that Oscar now that she now has the cultural and Hollywood cachet to get projects off the ground. Hence we have The Woman King. A very loose historical action movie with a vague basis in the true story of a tribe of female African warriors that protected a small nation in 1830s Africa. Is the film any good?
Absolutely. The Woman King might not have the same blow-your-socks-off energy that makes Top Gun: Maverick such an endearing prospect for anyone with a heartbeat and love of genuine big-screen cinema. That said they are very much cut from the same cloth. old fashioned nuts and bolts action movies that do not set out to reinvent the wheel but are simply ridiculously solid at exactly what they sent out to do. No one will claim the very tried and tested story structure following a new recruit entering the tribe is anything other than entirely perfunctory. Every story beat is entirely predictable from start to finish That said the strong cast and impressively cinematic spectacle behind the camera make sure the final product punches above its weight on several different levels. If there’s one element that prevents the full package from rising even higher it’s that the direction within the action scenes is not quite as confident as it could or should be. For the film to rise to unqualified best-of-the-year type recommendation. That said The Woman King offers the best type of representation for the Hollywood ideal of “strong female character.” The narrative and actions effectively cell or group of heroines cell are central group of heroines are totally badass and that’s the beginning of end and end of it. This is a textbook example of how this style of representation can be handled with a degree of populism that makes it incredibly effective.
The Woman King is ridiculously rocking solid from start to finish. The kind of earnestly fictionalised but cinematic historical epic that’s becoming increasingly rare in the age of cinematic universes and guaranteed mega-blockbusters being the only surefire bats in the theatrical landscape of 2022. It is also the kind of female empowerment story in which the narrative and actions stand on their own in a way that we should be seeing a lot more of in mainstream Hollywood. Ignore the inherent racism within the film’s online backlash. If any of this sounds like it might be up a potential viewer’s street the film is decidedly worth seeking out. Especially if it is still playing theatrically in your city.
PS. Here is the How to Get Away With Murder clip referenced. Mild NSFW warning ahead.

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