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The Woman King: What To Know Before You See The Viola Davis Movie

Viola Davis as General Nanisca in The Woman King
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Over the years, we’ve seen many movies centered on military units faced with a mission of life or death to go to war over, but never like The Woman King. The upcoming 2022 movie sees Viola Davis leading her first flick since 2018’s Widows as the general of a West African kingdom in the 19th century with an all-female unit of warriors. Before you check out The Woman King in theaters this month, here’s what you need to know about the stunning epic. 

The Woman King premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9 to rave reviews from critics thus far. The movie is set to be released only in theaters on September 16, including IMAX screens. Whether you’re on the fence about whether to check it out or just want to learn more about it we’ve got all the quick details to know:  

The Historical Events The Woman King Is Based On

The Woman King is based on a true story. The movie follows a young woman named Nawi (played by Thuso Mbebu) living in the kingdom of Dahomey (present day Benin) who refuses to marry a man and is then dropped off at the palace doors to become one of its women warriors, called the Agojie. 

The Agojie was an all-female military regiment that existed from the 1600s to 1904, and often called Amazons by Europeans who encountered them, as a comparison to the Amazons in Greek mythology, who were also warriors. Agojie women were recruited as young as eight years old from the king’s many wives, voluntarily or by their husbands or fathers due to their behavior. In The Woman King, you’ll see the recruitment process, their training and them going into battle along with a discussion of the problems and woes these women faced at the time. 

It’s An Incredibly Epic, Emotional And Empowering Story

While it’s always helpful to have a bit more background, you can go into The Woman King knowing nothing about the Agojie and enjoy yourself. The PG-13 movie is not one of those historical snooze fests. It’s very crowd pleasing thanks to its very epic production on all fronts, between its fight choreography, engaging storyline and empowering character arcs that are easy to become invested in and watch develop on screen. At the same time, The Woman King allows the audience to learn about life in the 1800s, in the time of the slave trade, from a West African perspective and as Viola Davis' and her Agojie sisters endure and overcome what comes with their unique position in their kingdom. Overall, it makes for an emotional, yet satisfying and exciting moviegoing experience. 

The Woman King Is Just Over Two Hours

The Woman King’s runtime stands at two hours and six minutes, but it moves and flies by. It’s not an easy movie to find a place for a bathroom break, so plan accordingly. That being said, the story is relatively easy to follow. It’s a big popcorn movie with incredible visuals, so plan your viewing accordingly.  

It’s Directed By The Old Guard’s Gina Prince-Bythewood 

The upcoming film is helmed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, and is her follow up to the 2020 Netflix action hit, The Old Guard. Prior to that film, the director began her career with 2000’s Love & Basketball before also making The Secret Life of Bees and Beyond The Lights. Prince-Bythewood is a groundbreaking Black female director who continues to open doors for representation, especially by making movies starring Black women that stand the test of time. 

Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch And John Boyega Star In The Movie 

Lastly, the cast on The Woman King is incredible. Aside from Viola Davis bringing it down with another amazing performance, you’ll see Captain Marvel and No Time To Die’s Lashana Lynch and and The Underground Railroad’s Sheila Atim as Agojie, Star Wars’ John Boyega as the kingdom’s ruler and even After star Hero Fiennes Tiffin as a key Portuguese trader. The actress who we’ll really be talking about after The Woman King is its secret star, Thuso Mbebu as Nawi, who is the young woman who we follow as she becomes a key warrior through unusual methods.

The Woman King is in theaters on September 16. It’s a rare release we’ll be rooting for at the box office and maybe even for 2023’s Oscar season.  

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.