7/10 “The Woman King”, not to be confused with “Queen”, is well made and acted but heavily changes history to get its story across. If you know how inaccurate the film is and don’t mind its revisionist aspects, then there is a lot to appreciate about the film. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood really steps up her game following her last movie, the absolutely horrendous 2020 Netflix dud, “The Old Guard”. Her direction here is much stronger as this feels more like a passion project for her vs. the “director for hire” feel of her last movie. The production design and costume design are both well detailed and bring to life the Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1820s. Despite coming in at a little over two hours long, the pacing works well and holds your attention from start to finish. One of the highlights is Terence Blanchard’s score, which brings the African setting to life in a beautiful way. The acting is top notch with leading lady Viola Davis carrying the film. However, it was some of the supporting actresses who I was most impressed by. Lashana Lynch as Izogie and Thuso Mbedu as Nawi are both fantastic in the film. Just as the cast of “300” got into incredible shape for that film and had to go through a boot camp to do so, the cast of “The Woman King” similarly went through a lot of training to not only accurately portray the warriors they are playing but also to get into fantastic shape. The battle scenes are well choreographed and the cinematography is strong throughout the entirety of the film. The film focuses on the Dahomey Amazons (also known as the Agojie) and their conflicts with France. While the story is interesting, it is also where the film gets into some dicey territory with its many inaccuracies. For starters, this group is largely portrayed as anti-slavery, especially King Ghezo (John Boyega). However, in real life King Ghezo and his people were big into the slave trade. Hollywood loves to push the narrative that only white people can be racist or that blacks can’t be racist so erasing historical facts about blacks selling their own kind into slavery (blacks started the slave trades) have to be ignored to further push their false narratives. Also, while I am sure the Dahomey women were tough, skilled fighters, this film shows them winning battles, taking down their French foes and generally kicking ass and taking names. However, reality was much different as the women were no match for their male opponents who were both physically stronger than them and had better, more modern weaponry. The Agojie only participated in one major battle in Cotonou during the First Franco-Dahomean War of 1890 and got absolutely crushed. Of course, there wouldn’t be much of a film here if the badass female warriors were shown to get their asses kicked, since that actually happened. Instead, we see them winning battles and only suffering minimal losses, which just wasn’t the case. My final complaint is that the character of Nawi is basically a Mary Sue. Despite no prior training to joining the Agojie, she is just naturally the best at everything she does, without really having to earn it. Despite the radical historical inaccuracies and the Mary Sue issue with Nawi, this is still a well made, expertly acted film worth seeing if you keep your expectations in check and know that this is only inspired by a true story as opposed to accurately telling a factual one.

#FreeDahomey / #AfricantWinTheBattle / #BetterSafeThanNawi / #SlaveNewWorld / #Peacefaker / #Sisterhood

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