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Bollywood Movie Reviews

The Woman King Is A Voluptuous Tribute To The Shero



The Woman King(Prime Video)

Rating: *** ½

The female hero, or the shero, never had  it so good.In this hark-back to an era  in  Africa  when women were  sold and  bought at the  male population’s will, there was  a tribe of women,the Agojie , warriors  who  protected the all-women army with a valour that challenged  male dominance  on both the  battle field and  in the domestic domain.

It’s a perfect recipe for  a feminist statement. Providentially  director Gina Prince-Bythewood steers   the  relentlessly interesting  plot through a maze  of  underwritten  action and emotion. While the canvas is  epic and the female black actors are all  brilliant,  the  director nonetheless reins in her  enthusiasm to  over-tell her story.Less is  not more here. It is the  only means to survive.

The inviolable  Viola Davis  leads  the cast as  the  army general Nanisca.She is at once violent and  vulnerable, eager to hurl her  emotional territory into the universe and afraid that in doing so she may lose her muscle in a male-centric  community. This is  the 19th century, and  no woman  could dream of going to war against her bestially brutal brothers who  indulged in heavy flesh trafficking of the women, as no one could stop them.

General Nanisca could. This is the story of one warrior woman against an ethos of sexism, although I doubt this world existed  during the time when Nanisca opened fire on  male domination.

While the story in itself is immensely illuminating , the director  Gina Prince-Bythewood cordons off the battlecry to restrict her  attention on Viola Davis’ General  Nanisca and a young plucky recruit Nawi, played by a brilliant discovery Thuso Mbedu ,who turns out to be  Nanisca’s daughter.

 The mother-daughter  sequences are profoundly  sentimental, and yet remarkably free  of treacly emotions. The  power of the plot is the power to convey pain and kinship without keeling  over with passionate anxiety. The   two actors,Davis and  Mbedu  are  a portrait of  heroic  vulnerability. In the  battle with their male counterparts the two ladies are given no leverage  for their gender. They get battered bruised and shown their place in the patriarchal hierarchy.

But here’s the thing: they drag themselves  back to their feet, and  continue  fighting. The Woman King conveys the  zest for life in an isolated  female army.The  narration never holds the ladies’ hands. Instead it hurls them  into action entrusting them  into a winning a war that is yet to be won so many centuries after .

The film is magnificently shot  by Polly Morgan(who also The  Quiet Place, here  flipping the  visual coin from an eerie silence to hard earned battlecry)  and superbly sound-designed, each shot conveying the mystery of the jungles and the bloodcurdling sound of animals on the prowl.

The Woman King is both a voluptuous entertainer and  a thoughtful meditation on the war that womanhood wages on inequality even as the world  all around  makes the gender issue a war lost even before the battle begins for women.

 But there is  always hope. The Woman Warrior ignites a feminine pride . It is winner for women way beyond the battles fought on screen.

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