One surprising benefit of 2022’s lighter release schedule is the different types of film that have been given a platform. Joining that trend is historical epic The Woman King, which offers a familiar story in a completely different context.
Viola Davis takes the title role of General Nanisca, a military leader in the African kingdom of Dahomy in the 19th Century. Protecting the King, played by John Boyega, at all costs, Nanisca convinces him that a new invading force may be their toughest challenge yet.
A magnificently assembled action spectacle, the story of a kingdom preparing to protect its walls isn’t exactly new, but director Gina Prince Blythewood of Love and Basketball makes it feel fresh. The combat is hard-hitting, bringing to mind the genre standards of Gladiator and Braveheart, but in between is enough space for characters to develop, interact, and build for the finale.
Putting these kinds of story beats in a film with a predominantly black female cast reinvigorates them. Refreshing as that new viewpoint is, it’s the talented cast that make for a film that will entertain audiences across the board.
Thuso Mbedu stands out as Nawi, a recruit who forms a strong connection to her new general. Boyega and Lashana Lynch continue their run of fine character work, but you can’t tear your eyes away from Davis.
Technically, The Woman King is an accomplished historical epic that doesn’t stray too far from the formula. However, the real life grounding and the strength of the performances make it one of 2022’s most rewarding surprises.