Gina Prince-Bythewood directs Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu and Lashana Lynch in this 19th century historical epic about the Agojie, the all-female warrior unit that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey.
Lots to like here. Terrific Terence Blanchard score – rousing. Excellent locations and production design. The colours and detailing of the costuming by Gersha Phillips stand out – I don’t even want to guess what the seashell budget was for this? The combat work is aggressive and convincing… though maybe each set piece needed a few more beats per battle to truly feels expansive. And then there’s that cast! Everybody shines (apart from the slavers / himbo romantic interest.) Viola Davis obviously owns the film but you equally crave as much screentime from Lynch, Shelia Atim and John Boyega as the narrative can allow. Thuso Mbedu as the young warrior in training is a star in the making. Yet all these positives can’t alter the problem that the storytelling often feels rather rote at times… and the cinematography by Polly Morgan is awkwardly flat and uninspired. Her framing here doesn’t understand how to make a moment look iconic and she has little flair for action. Proof that it takes just a few out of sync technical elements to hobble a potential new classic.
Perfect Double Bill: Amistad (1997)
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