BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
A medical doctor in the army, Major Egan, has to say goodbye to his wife of three weeks because he is urgently needed on the battlefield. It is hard, and his wife, Lebari, objects and whines and cries. After minutes of persuasion by a Col. Bello (Chukwuma Aligwekwe), Egan’s superior and father figure, Lebari agrees, on the condition that he comes back to her when the war is over. He doesn’t.
2015 award-winning film, A Soldier’s Story, starts out as intriguing. We see bodies of people slain in a war; we hear gunshots, coming from angry men who would rather lay down their lives than let the enemy win. The picture is painted of bloody warfare, and we buy it.
As it progresses, however, it begins to shed its intrigue, scene after scene, like a pair of smelly socks. Egan is reported dead and his already-pregnant wife loses the child in her grief. Unknown to them, a nurse from Wazts republic (a fictional country not too far from Nigeria where the war takes place), Regina, finds his almost lifeless body and nurses him back to life. He does not remember his identity and subsequently falls in love with his benefactor, but the odds would not smile heartily on their love story.
Something is slightly off. The title, maybe, as it is only remotely a story of a soldier. The man is a doctor who, half the time, is without an identity, helping out around his new home with very civilian matters. The story focuses more on a certain ‘Bossman’ whose actor (Daniel K Daniel) eventually earns himself an award for best actor for his performance in the film. While it bothers me that this role wins him this award, I can’t help but wonder why Linda Ejiofor, who seems the most outstanding act of the entire movie, earns no recognition. DKD’s accent is as inconsistent as his act, and his role isn’t defined in the scheme of things. What is the war about? Is he a soldier? Oh, no, he is the head of a rebel group. Okay, so what are they fighting for? We get nothing at all, except that he is a troublemaker who slaps girls’ behinds and orders grown men around in terrible English.
The story is fair; it isn’t the most unique, but it is different. The slight revelation of a set up in the end as a form of a major plot twist isn’t properly executed. It seems like an afterthought, to give the movie a sort of ‘Oh wow!’ moment. But all it does is leave us with more questions, like: how did Regina know where to find Egan in the whole of Lagos? Or why do we keep having this clichéd scenes of people watching their loved ones go and then getting motivated to run after them? Zainab Balogun is cast as Angela , Regina’s friend, and she gives an impressive performance for a newbie. Olumide Oworu, who acts as Edwin, is believable as a teenage boy who is fond of his sister and protective of her. His, and Zainab’s, are perhaps the best accents of the entire Wazts Republic.
The writer, who doubles as director, Frankie Ogar, is ambitious with his story, but doesn’t quite nail it. The fighting scenes are far from believable: too neat perhaps, as everything in the room is intact when an indoor fight is over. You almost want to scream at them to get the scene over with, unrealistic as it is. There are parts, especially by the waterfall, where the sound of rushing water interferes with the audio so much that we have to strain to hear what is being said. It is hard to feel any chemistry between the actors too, as it is quickly snatched from our faces before we even see it. The only kind of love that moves us is that between the siblings, Edwin and Regina.
Tope Tedela fails to impress once again, as the emotions on his face are pretty much the same throughout the movie. For the lead role of Egan, he doesn’t seem the best choice, and even Adesua Etomi’s passionate acting as his wife doesn’t help much.
After watching this movie gross some good awards and nominations atend AMVCAs, it is disappointing to see that it really isn’t all that. But for its few golden moments and interesting make up, the story is ordinary and veers off course, laden with holes that can fit in my big toes. It is nice to know that a movie is made to honour our soldiers who sacrifice the love of comfort and family to defend the nation, but I like to think a film that is worth doing at all, is worth doing excellently.
I give it 49%