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Tag: Viola Davis

QuickView: The Woman King (2022)

The Woman King poster

“We are the spear of victory, we are the blade of freedom, we are Dahomey!”


A historical epic about the Agojie, the all-women warriors of the Dahomey tribe, The Woman King follows in the wake of Black Panther in its celebration of vibrant African culture within a big budget action film. The focus on the training and exploits of these warriors against an existential threat to the Dahomey bears considerable similarity to 300 — there is breadth to the story if not depth. Thematically, The Woman King directly tackles the transatlantic slave trade and the murky lines in African complicity pressured by colonial incursion. The kinetic close-quarters combat is well choreographed, although frequent cuts around the battlefield can make the action hard to follow. It is always pleasing, however, to see darker skin tones shot well in low light. The Woman King‘s real strength lies in its performances, led by Viola Davis as the deeply conflicted general beneath her cold exterior, ably challenged by newcomer Thuso Mbedu. The slow start allows the development of the interrelated personal themes of pride — earned and demanded — and the attempt to sever oneself from a painful past. John Boyega is clearly in his element as the reformer king (putting aside questions of historical accuracy of the individual in favour of a more nuanced examination of slavery and colonialism). Historical epics were once a mainstay of tentpole summer releases, and The Woman King provides the essential ingredients of engaging personal stories within impressive sets and rousing battles.


QuickView: Prisoners (2013)

“Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

Keller Dover

Denis Villeneuve may be my favourite currently working director off the back of his exceptional three-year run with the wildly different Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. In his earlier Prisoners he explores the world of cerebral urban crime that David Fincher gravitates toward. Cinematic and storytelling tropes mean that crime thrillers typically underwhelm in their third act, either through the obviousness of their conclusion or a sense that they have cheated. Prisoners is a rare exception that carefully ties together the disparate clues scattered during its slow burn build up, but it succeeds moreso because of the wider themes it explores around desperation and retribution. Its subject matter makes for challenging viewing with child abduction, murder and torture (although the film is notably restrained in what it depicts on-screen). All of the lead performances are captivating, but Jackman’s emotional energy is the film’s seething undercurrent as a father who will do anything to find his daughter — yet, unlike the focused vengeance of Liam Neeson in Taken, here his actions are bred from desperation and the audience is forced to question rather than simply being brought along for the ride. Unashamedly an adult experience, Prisoners is exhausting but rewarding.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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