The high-flying Navy heroes of a certain blockbuster sequel have competition in this year’s crowd-pleasing movie department in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s handsomely produced epic The Woman King (A). Against the backdrop of the bygone besieged West African nation of Dahomey (modern-day Benin) in the 1820s, Viola Davis plays a fictional general from a real group of all-female warriors called the Agojie and must train the next generation of women to fight an enemy who wants to destroy their way of life. Davis is an absolute force of nature in the role, alternately executing elaborate fight choreography and exposing the emotion behind her stoic soldier stance. Thusu Mbedu is magnificent as a maverick up-and-comer in the brilliant brigade, and Lashana Lynch and Sheila Latim are superb standouts in the squad. John Boyega is wonderful as well playing the reigning monarch with a rousing final act battle speech. Prince-Bythewood depicts the crucibles and counteroffenses of the film’s women with stunning agility; this is clearly the work of women on a mission and offers strong storytelling and spectacle. Without missing a beat of the action, the story also confronts the immorality of the kingdom’s leaders selling Dahomey slaves to the Portuguese; it’s fascinating in the way it fills in some blanks from the history books. Also distinguished by Terence Blanchard’s score and frankly every element of Hollywood crafts, this film promises to be a word of mouth sensation and will please those who enjoyed adventures such as Last of the Mohicans or Gladiator. All hail the arrival of this fine film!