Historical films that contradict the original facts often become a problem in the world of cinema. Especially, in The Woman King, which slightly puts aside the facts of the field and brings elements of modern politics to make the film relevant. However, if you look at it from that side, maybe we will make an antagonist of this film which feels very heinous.
When Quentin Tarantino released Inglorious Basterds (2009), the public was shocked by the plot to kill Adolf Hitler, which was completely far from historical facts. The reason is, a year earlier, Bryan Singer released a similar film (Valkyrie, 2008) based on an original story, so Tarantino’s film looks far-fetched. Gradually, Basterds was accepted and its status became a cult film.
Now, The Woman King also comes with a slight departure from history. There is indeed a foundation, namely the story of Agojie, a group of female soldiers under the control of the king of Dahomey. Specific time setting. The characters are also based on figures that actually existed in the past. In addition, the conflict is also real, ever present. However, as a whole, the storyline may be fictitious.
When Basterds deviates from history, the framework created by Woman King is quite faithful to historical reality. This loyalty will make the audience question the authenticity of the story, a cool conflict that makes watching it even more interesting. However, within the scope of cinema, we should realize that everything played by real actors is indeed fictional.
If you have penetrated the self-conflict regarding the perceptions above, on this side, we will be faced with a more complete The Woman King film: a story of traditional heroism. There are two main heroes in this story, the first is Nanisca (Viola Davis), a general who is hit by an identity crisis when he is almost at the peak of fame. The second is Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a young woman who was presented by her parents to the king and chose to become Agojie.
Slavery, inter-tribal wars, and colonialism that actually took place on African soil at that time became the dark background of this film. Contrary to history, the presence of the Dahomey Kingdom was structured in such a way as to make them look as good as they could: being slave liberators and fighting tribes and colonists who practiced human trafficking, even though they had a hand in the practice. Dahomey is still doing the dirty trade and Nanisca’s presence is there to eradicate it.
Despite the complexity of these problems, Gina Prince-Bythewood puts on a neat facade, focusing her story on Nanisca and Nawi. From the beginning, Nanisca has been shaped like a hero, revered like a mythical creature. Interestingly, he has a past that continues to be kidnapped here, which is ultimately related to the tools of social conflict at that time.
Meanwhile, in one scope, but a different story, Nawi is a story of the formation of a hero. He initially looks like a rich kid out of place in military training. However, slowly, he shows persistence and it turns out that he has a strange background that attracts Nanisca.
With a dark social background, the complicated story of the main character, The Woman King still looks light in its storytelling. It’s easy for the audience to understand the storyline to build some interesting fight scenes. On the other hand, this is Ray Davis who always appears charismatic in his dramas, widening his acting powers with his shocking and mesmerizing short-range combat abilities. Davis’ physique also looks prime and perfect for a woman who is in her mid-50s.
This attractive action with short-range combat is also another attraction from Prince-Bythewood’s work. In addition to hand-to-hand combat, the use of traditional weapons with classic rifles is combined with fun. Even though the portions are small, the action scenes are worked out solidly and beautifully. If we have been able to penetrate historical conflicts, enjoy stories of traditional heroism, as well as captivating actions, we can enjoy The Woman King to the fullest. The film does not make your brain nerves convoluted. However, in its peak moment, unfortunately, the modern socio-political elements in this film seem cliche, so that it slightly reduces the story of the great heroism of Nanisca and Nawi.