The tension in historical war films is often at odds with the subject matter. The war itself is pathetic, complicated, and sometimes heroically aimless. War movies, especially old Technicolor epics, tend to be thrilling affairs where the stars triumph in the crucible of battle. In one of the director’s most voluminous works to date, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Queen includes the Agojie, an army of brave women who have protected the African kingdom of Dahomey for thousands of years.
It’s packed with well-choreographed action, performed by The film is made to cheer audiences, but it does so without ignoring the brutal realities of combat. As usual, Viola Davis has a solid core to the film as General Naniska, leader of the Agoziers known as the Dahomey Amazons, a unit of women who have abandoned marriage and motherhood to practice martial arts and defend their kingdom. This is an egalitarian move in a society where the King (John Boyega) still owns a vast harem.
Entry into this warrior culture is made through Nawi (“Suso Mbedu on the Underground Railroad,” another strong performance in front of the big screen). Nawi is an independent and stubborn young woman who refuses to marry for money and is ultimately driven to frustration. her father to drop her off at her royal palace.
The new film The Woman King, starring Viola Davis as the fictional leader of Agojie, tells the story of this all-female power. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film is set as conflict engulfs the region and the specter of European colonization looms large. This is the first time the American film industry has adapted this captivating story.