‘The Woman King’ builds an action spectacle around its true story of female warriors
Although “inspired by true events,” “The Woman King” clearly isn’t tethered to them, using the underlying story of 19th-century female warriors in an African kingdom as the jumping-off point for a rousing action vehicle, augmented by plenty of melodrama.
That combination yields a strong showcase for the stars, featuring a cast and backdrop that serves to refresh its old-school formula.
Regal as always, Viola Davis provides the movie with its rock-solid core as General Nanisca, the leader of the Agojie, known as the Dahomey Amazons, a unit of women who swear off marriage and motherhood to pursue martial arts and defend the kingdom.
It’s an egalitarian streak within a society where the king (John Boyega) still possesses a sprawling harem.
There, she’s taken under the wing of Izogie (Lashana Lynch, adding to an action resume that includes “Captain Marvel” and “No Time to Die”), and trained to undergo the brutal regimen that will eventually admit her into this corps of elite troops.
The boot camp that follows – which will surely serve as a source of inspiration for modern-day workout programs – proceeds in concert with preparation for potential war against a rival kingdom, the Oyo Empire, that has extorted tribute from the Dahomey for years.