BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
There are movies we watch because we have free time on our hands, some we manage to see about five minutes of before going on a leisurely stroll to Dreamland. There are others that compel you to see them. They hang on to your feet like a clingy puppy till you grumble your way to a cinema, reach into your purse and bring out money for tickets, and they haul your arm till you’re seated in a dark room, staring at a big screen and tuning the world out.
The CEO is an example of the latter. If Kunle Afolayan’s reputation isn’t reason enough, then the trailer should be. If that doesn’t do, then the high profile multi-lingual cast and budget should. If all of that isn’t enough, then the premier aboard Air France would sanitize remnant traces of doubt from your mind and make you sit down to see. It might even make you –as it made me- take a friend along, assuring them that this would all be worth it.
So you sit, and the movie begins, and the story you have read in the synopsis for months on-end plays before your eyes, hanging an air of palpable suspense over your head because you know that there is far more to it than the trailer lets on. And then you watch, immersed in the storyline that unfolds, layer after layer, trusting the writer who has been tested, the director, who has been tried, and the producer whose work is rife in ingenuity. And so you wait, and wait and wait for the big reveal. There are minor hitches on the journey, like how a Superintendent Ebenezer (Hilda Dokubo) draws her words in a manner that makes you smirk, and how a Lisa (Kemi Lala) keeps making faces you do not understand, but you take them in your stride. This is all part of the fun, you say.
Let’s do a brief synopsis at this point:
Five top executives of Transwire Communications, a global telecoms company, are nominated to go on a weeklong retreat that would determine who becomes the next CEO, upon retirement of the previous one. Three men; Kola (Wale Ojo), Riikard (Nico Panagio), Jomo (Peter King); and two women, Eloise (Auriel Eliam) and Yasmin (Fatym Layachi), each with secrets that could jeopardize their chances. They are lodged in a beautiful beach resort on Lagos Island, and are met with the facilitator, Dr. Zimmerman (Angelique Kidjo) daily for assessments that would ultimately leave one man standing. She is assisted by an innocent-looking Lisa. Strange things begin to occur, however. There is mystery you are waiting to see unravel, so you glide over the bumps, ‘yay!’ at the level plains and keep your eyes on the road.
And then you get to the end of the road and realize that all you’ve been holding your breath for has been nothing other than a well-dressed and adventurous emptiness. It is an entire body of exquisitely-made nothings that leaves you looking clueless. It is thick tea employed to quench a thirst that it cannot handle.
Technically, Kunle Afolayan is known to deliver. He is thorough, specific and has a good eye for detail. Cinematography sits on a throne in this movie, to be paid obeisance. The locations are beautiful to look upon. They show Africa in its best light. And this is why we would never truly understand why The CEO falls short on many levels in its holey plot. Try as I may to keep the spoilers away, I’ll have to say that the resolution of this movie tried too hard, seemed too rushed and was too basic for a movie that held that much promise. It is difficult to believe who the film holds responsible for drowning a huge man, murdering a woman as built as herself, and pushing another man into a pool with one arm, clad in a clichéd black-on-black. Without any explanation about a presence of superpowers? Or are the victims just utterly dumb?
The acting is very good with some, and mediocre with others. Wale Ojo shines all through, making the interpretation of his role seem like a walk in the park. Nico is a brilliant actor, and brings it with him into this film as a nearly-arrogant business executive who doesn’t believe in superstition. Eloise is beautiful and vocal and passionate, and Yasmin rarely knows what to do with her hands most of the time, as she reels off a script in barely comprehensible English. Kemi Lala’s acting is weak and surprising, and Hilda isn’t very believable. Angelique sells the mystery well.
The issue with The CEO’s resolution is sufficient to make one walk out of a cinema dejected because it is the spinal cord on which the movie stands, and without strength in it, the entire movie falls flat on its butt. Terrible acting might still be overlooked; a number of technical errors may be swept under a thick dirty rug. But a faulty resolution? Unforgivable. If a writer hits a snag, they could get help from a collaborative effort, or find another writer. With any creative endeavor, it is important to remove the personas from the art. I hope the producer keeps this in mind when working on his next project.
Because my expectations were dropped like a hot potato, I give The CEO a 55.