Cinematic Underdogs’s review published on Letterboxd:
Bythewood continues to showcase a ridiculous wealth of versatility behind the camera with this equally progressive and old-fashioned epic. A unique confluence of Queen of Katwe and Braveheart, The Woman King exhibits Bythewood as a consummate professional — this is filmmaking that looks easier than it is to achieve. The smoothness and emotional poignancy is the result of remarkable competence on all levels of production, from start to finish.
Did I love it? Intermittently. The drama is broad and big, the set pieces are solid and often rousing, the acting is fierce and top-tier, and the scope deserves a gigantic screen. This is popcorn moviemaking — with heartfelt clichés and pump-fist in the air tenacity. However, it’s slightly too manicured and sleek for my liking — curated with the perfectionism that perennially dooms Disney products for me (I know this isn’t Disney movie, but sans the violence it very much feels like one). On the upside, it also delivers a gritty slice of genuine passion — even if the glossy props, staged choreography, and neatly-pressed costumes dilutes it’s heft.
Nitpicks aside, I can’t think of a more satisfying summer action/war flick in recent memory, even if I don’t love storylines & narrative twists that feel tailor-made for general audiences. Ironically enough, this has that special element that Disney hasn’t been able to reproduce since the 90s, which is obviously why they keep remaking their own classics. What they need to do is hire Bythewood — she’s got game. Whatever happens, I’m very curious to see what Bythewood has up her sleeve now that she’s got an autobiographical/sports-based/coming-of-age classic (Love and Basketball), a pop star/romantic/fictionalized biopic (Beyond the Lights), a made-for-Netflix/quasi-feminist/international action thriller (The Old Guard), and this African war epic on her impressively eclectic resume.