In the early 1800’s, a West African kingdom known as the Dahomey were in a conflict with a neighboring empire of people known as The Oyo. The Dahomey differ from many other civilizations in that they have an elite force of warriors known as the Agojie, one of the few documented female militaries in history, many of whom were sworn celibate, and or virgin. Nanisca (Viola Davis), the general of these warriors, leads her band of fierce and deadly ladies on various missions. The most recent endeavor was to free a group of enslaved Dahomey people who were captured by the Oyo. This mission causes a chain of events that make the King of Dahomey, King Ghezo (John Boyega) prepare for an all-out war with the Oyo, and thus begins a call to action of training more women for the cause.
While the training begins in earnest, we are met with a young woman named Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) who refuses to be married upon her father’s orders, and instead her father offers her to King Ghezo as a gift. Not knowing where she would go, Nawi is thrust into training into the Agojie, and takes leadership under a warrior named Izogi (Lashana Lynch). Nawi has lived a vicious cycle of life under her father, so she uses this chance to become strong under Izogi’s mentorship, and with the team of Agojie behind her. The training Nawi endures would never be easy, and the training will constantly test her will, especially being carefully watched by General Nanisca. The Oyo, however, are not going to sit back and get run over by the Dahomey. They begin getting close with a lot of powerful people, including a group of European slavers who happened to have a half-Dohomey man in their company. The Oyo are in a large number, way larger than the Dohomey, but General Nanisca will not falter in the face of fear for her people.
To be honest, and like usual, I took a copious number of notes while watching this film, but for the first time (about 20 minutes in), I put the pen down, and never picked it back up. I just could not take my eyes away from the screen for any second due to how mesmerizing the story and characters all became to me. Not only is Viola Davis a stunning general for the Dohomey tribe, but she is just the tip of the spear of how great everyone else in this community was. I found myself wanting to know about everyone of these characters, and was quick to shed a tear knowing that they wouldn’t all make it in the end. The sound, the atmosphere, and the natural feel this film had made it all the more engrossing, and has quickly risen to one of my favorite films of the year, easily. This film has an immense amount of heart, and this group of powerful black women are the soul.
In the end, this film was incredible. I couldn’t help but root for General Nanisca and her incredible group of women warriors. We see these women go through so much together, including General Nanisca herself, and I couldn’t help the feeling of them taking me by the hand on their journey while I looked up at them with childlike wonder. Anytime the tribe was in an internal conflict, external conflict, or facing victory or defeat; I was right there with them feeling the empathy of whatever they were going through. We have seen many films about Africa, but none like this. I highly recommend this to everyone, as I don’t have hardly any negativity to say about it.
Reviewed By: Dimitreus Newell