The Woman King Movie Review and Summary

The Agojie are an army of fierce women warriors who protect their kingdom, Dahomey, and its people.

The Woman King Movie Review and Summary
The Woman King is a wonderful depiction of the strength of West African women warriors in the 19th Century. Source: Sony Pictures.

The Woman King is a 2022 historical dramatization echoing the existence of an army of women warriors in early 19th Century West Africa. The movie kicks off in the West African kingdom of Dahomey which is under threat from the Oyo Kingdom, who raid their lands and capture their people with the intent to sell them off as slaves.

The Woman King Movie Review and Summary

This movie is both a review and summary of The Woman King. That is to say, it may contain spoilers.

The Agojie

The Agojie are an army of fierce women warriors who protect their kingdom, Dahomey, and its people. They raid a neighboring village of the Mahi people, where they rescue captives. The captives are taken back to Dahomey along with the native women of the Mahi people. The women are then given a chance to join the Agojie if they so wish, or to return home to their villages.

The Agojie in the Woman King
The Agojie are fierce West African women warriors who protect Dahomey and its people. Source: Sony Pictures.


Nanisca, played by Viola Davis, is the commander and leader of the Agojie. She is fierce and strong and plays the role of the matriarch. She trains her warriors to be fierce and to use their power to protect the Dahomey kingdom and its king. Above all, she seeks to free it from the slave trade and the consistent raids by the Oyo Kingdom. At her side is her confidant and friend, Amenza, played by Sheila Atim.


Nawi, played by South African Thuso Mbedu, is a young girl whose father is keen to marry her off. She is asked to run back home, during a water run to the river, where she's told that a rich man is waiting and wants to take her as his wife. She meets the man who, on her resistance, slaps her across the face.

Nawi in the Woman King
Thuso Mbedu plays Nawi who is a strong, arrogant, and stubborn girl whose destined to become an Agojie. Source: Sony Pictures.

Nawi won't take this and shoves the man into a fall. The man is outraged, as are Nawi's parents, and withdraws his interest and walks away. Nawi's father in a rage takes her daughter to the palace where he offers her up to the king as a gift. He intends for her to join the Agojie so that she can "know pain".

In the Palace

In the Palace, she meets with two women, Fumbe, played by Masali Baduza, and Ode, played by Adrienne Warren, who are part of the rescued captees and natives of the recent Mahi raid. The three become friends and Nawi gets to meet one of the trainers of the group, Izogie, played by Lashana Lynch. She fascinates Izogie who guides her on becoming an Agojie. Nawi goes through training and more and more each day discovers her destiny as a woman warrior.

King Ghezo

The young king of Dahomey is King Ghezo, played by John Boyega. He is a traditionalist and seeks to end the continuous oppressive campaign of the Oyo kingdom against Dahomey. He entrusts his most fierce Agojie warrior, Nanisca with settling the score.

King Ghezo in The Woman King
King Ghezo is a young but wise king who rules Dahomey with wisdom and courage. Source: Sony pictures.

Dahomey by this time trades its male captives as slaves but Nanisca is of a different line of thinking. According to her, Dahomey can do better and instead concentrate on trading its natural resources such as palm oil. She believes that it is time Dahomey comes out of oppression by the Oyo and will do all she can to see this come to be.

Paying Tribute No More

It is tradition for Dahomey to pay tribute to the Oyo Kingdom which is a bigger and stronger kingdom. This time, however, King Ghezo is demotivated to do so as the Oyo had been attacking the villages and capturing people to later sell them as slaves.

When the Oyo general, General Oba Ade comes to collect the tribute, he finds that it is not sufficient and asks to be given 40 Agojie to make up for the insufficient tribute. King Ghezo negotiates it to 20 Agojie and tells Oba Ade that the Agojie will be sent to his base at Port Ouidah. Oba Ade leaves his sidekick in Dahomey, nonetheless, to enjoy the prepared feast as he heads back to the port.


Days later Nanisca is accompanied by 20 Agojie to the port. She, however, doesn't hand the Agojie over. Instead, they bring General Oba Ade the heads of his sidekick and the other men he'd left in Dahomey.

Nanisca instructs the other Agojie to run away and is left attacking Oba Ade. She'd remembered that he was one of her enslavers who'd raped her continuously while she was young. Nawi was one of the Agojie who'd accompanied her to the port and when the others run, she is left behind and helps Nanisca.


Malik, played by Jordan Bolger, is a half-Dahomey and half-white Portuguese man who visits the West African coast alongside his friend and slave trader Santo Ferreira. He seeks to go out and visit Dahomey as it is the land where his mother came from. She had been sold to the slavers and later had a child, Malik, with a white man. During her death, she'd told Malik to go to her home, Dahomey, and there he'd find himself.

Nawi and Malik about to kiss in The Woman King
Nawi takes a liking to Malik but she is not allowed to fraternize as an Agojie. Source: Sony Pictures.

A Flame Unignited

Malik and Nawi meet, with Nawi very curious about his half-cast origin. She takes a liking to him, despite not being allowed to fraternize or marry as part of the Agojie. The two become lowkey friends and later meet after Malik accompanies Santo to Dahomey. Santo, played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, is there to buy slaves while Malik is there to discover his motherland. Santo and Nawi get a chance to speak and he gets to watch her go through the final test that will qualify her as an Agojie.

Victorious Nawi

Nawi goes through the final test courageously. She even helps her friend Fumbe who is stuck in the bush of thorns the trainees have to go through as part of the test. She manages to do that and also catch up with and pass Ode who'd been doing better than she was.

Nawi gets through the test successfully, comes first, and is awarded the victor's sword by King Ghezo. Later that night after their oath ceremony she sneaks out to see Malik. Malik tells her that the Oyo are coming and that they have enlisted other tribes to join them in the attack on Dahomey.

She's My Daughter

Nanisca one day notices that Nawi has a scar on the back of her left shoulder and upper arm. That scar is eerily similar to the scar that she'd put on her daughter. Nanisca on being raped by Oba Ade and his men had gotten pregnant and had a daughter. She'd cut an opening in the baby's left upper arm and placed a tooth in there. She'd then told Amenza to take the baby and abandon her somewhere. Amenza had left the baby with missionaries.

Nawi and Nanisca in The Woman King
Nawi feels responsible for what happened to her mother but Nanisca assures her that it was not her fault. Source: Sony Pictures.

Nawi had a similar scar and she also tells Nanisca that she is adopted and that her parents were foster parents. Nanisca cannot believe it and thinks that Nawi must be her long-lost daughter. On the night of Nawi's victory and graduation into becoming an Agojie, Nawi, after meeting Malik, comes to inform Nanisca of the Oyo's plan to attack with the help of other tribes. Whilst there, Nanisca pulls her closer and cuts out the tooth in Nawi's scar discovering that indeed Nawi is her daughter.


Nawi had once pulled a trick where she'd put gunpowder in one of the training dummies and an explosion had gone off when Izogie struck the dummy with her sword. Out of this, Nanisca realized that one does not need a gun to use gunpowder. Applying this principle, the Agojie plant little hills of gunpowder in pots, resembling ant hills. When the Oyo armies draw closer, Nanisca ignites the pots and the Oyo's base is burnt to the ground.

Amenza, Izogie, and Nawi in the Woman King
Amenza, Izogie, and Nawi readying for war. Source: Sony Pictures.

The Oyo realize they are being attacked and come out with their swords. They fight with the Agojie and the Agojie win. Nawi and Fumbe are, however, taken captive, alongside another Agojie warrior. Fumbe is unbound, unlike the rest, and Nawi tells her to jump off the wagon. She's later rescued by herders and taken back to Dahomey.

In the Slave Cages at the Port

In the port, Nawi meets Izogie who'd also been taken captive. The two make a plan to escape along with the other Agojie warrior, and when the moment comes they make their move. Unfortunately, as they escape, Izogie is shot down. By this time, Malik has come to Nawi's rescue and he's offered to buy her from the enslavers. He does and she stays safely in his room.

Becoming a Kpojito

As per tradition, King Ghoze has to choose a woman king to rule alongside him. He chooses Nanisca, much to the objection of one of his wives, Shante, played by Jayme Lawson. Nanisca, however, is keen to go to the port to rescue the captives, including Nawi who she now knows is her daughter. The king objects but Nanisca goes anyway. On the way there, she's joined by Amenza and even some of the male soldiers of Dahomey. They head to the port and attack it.

Out of Trade

Nanisca, the Agojie, and the male soldiers destroy the port and the slave trade market. They attack the enslavers there and free the slaves. Nanisca is glad to find Nawi there though she is aggrieved by the loss of Izogie. The slavers are now out of trade even as Malik manages to escape the attack. Nawi and Malik gesture goodbye and she goes back to Dahomey with Nanisca and the soldiers.

The Woman King

Back in the palace, Nanisca is made the Kpojito, The Woman King, and takes her throne on the right side of the King. There she is adorned with the grace that she deserves. The Agojie later go into a celebration by dancing and Nawi goes on to meet her mother, the new woman king, and asks her for a dance. The two embrace one another and join the celebrations and dance.

Nanisca as the woman king seated beside king Ghezo
Nanisca takes her place beside the king as the new woman king. Source: Sony Pictures.

Our Rating

The Woman King is a worthy watch. We are mostly super impressed by the flawless acting of one of our very own, South Africa's Thuso Mbedu who plays Nawi. The movie also is mostly cast with black actors and we thought that that is fab.

As an African, however, it came off as a little exaggerated. I can tell you we Africans do not speak like that with an intentional deep voice, neither are we that forceful and fierce. Either way, considering the movie is about West Africa in the early 19th century, maybe we can give it a pass.

We rate the movie 8/10 and love it for its powerful storyline, especially in regard to women's empowerment. Definitely, a good watch. Enjoy!


Who Plays Nawi in The Woman King?

South African actress Thuso Mbedu plays Nawi in The Woman King. Thuso Mbedu plays Nawi phenomenally and brings such originality to the film. Her performances are fluid and we are very impressed with her performance on there. We also hope that this role is her breakout role and that it opens up even bigger doors for her in Hollywood.

Is The Woman King Based on a True Story?

Yes. The Woman King is based on a true story and Agojie did exist and were a women-only warrior unit in the real-life kingdom of Dahomey in the early 19th Century. Dahomey is what later became the country of Benin. There's even a statue of the Agojie there as you can see below.

A statue of an Agojie warior in Benin
A statue of an Agojie warrior in Benin. Source: Getty.