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CINEMA REVIEW: Kunle Afolayan’s “The CEO” Is Fine From Afar, But Far From Fine

BY ANDREW OKE

Imagine going to the Smithsonian to get a glimpse of the Hope Diamond, but after regarding it closely with the help of a jeweler (let’s assume you have managed to raise Harry Winston from the dead), you find out that it is in fact not the precious stone that you once thought it was; what it really is is a cheap cubic zirconia.

That is exactly how I felt watching the new film by Nigerian celebrity filmmaker Kunle Afolayan; The CEO. From a distance, it looks exceptional, but when you come in a little closer and pay a little more attention, you realise that it is not that impressive and to be honest, a tad disappointing.

The CEO tells the story of five corporate executives at a multinational telecoms company who are selected to attend a retreat in order to determine who will become the company’s new CEO here in Nigeria, however, things take an eerie turn when, one-by-one, the execs turn up dead. The executives; Kola (Wale Ojo), Yasmin (Fatym Layachi), Riikard (Nico Panagio), Eloise (Auriele Eliam) and Jomo (Peter King) all have a skeleton or two in their closets that could potentially hamper their chances of becoming the next CEO. Each of their secrets are revealed in an almost systemic manner, through the help of nerve-racking games of musical chairs and Angelique Kidjo’s Dr. Zimmerman who is there on behalf of the telecoms company to help determine who, amongst the executives, should be given the coveted job of CEO.

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From a technical standpoint, The CEO is the best Nigeria film released in the cinema so far this year. It is not a technical marvel and it doesn’t employ the use of any camera gymnastics, but it is a very, very well shot film with great sound and music. The world that the audience is thrown into seems very natural and lived in; something that has become a staple in Kunle Afolayan’s recent films. And occupying this world is an amazing pan-African cast of characters, all of which are brought to life by a great group of actors, with the stand outs being Wale Ojo and Nico Panagio, both of whom were beyond believable in their respective roles of Kola and Riikard.

Up until a certain point, The CEO is an engaging and rather entertaining film despite its rudimentary and predictive storytelling and plot. However, that certain point comes along and manages to undo all the logic and reason established in the first hour and a half of the film. The only way to describe this monumental mess without divulging any key plot points of the film would be to say that; in an attempt to pull a “Keyser Soze”, The CEO resorts to the nonsensical in the hope of distracting the audience from its empty, emotionally shallow and patchwork ending.

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By the time The CEO ended, I felt so disappointed because I was honestly invested in the film and the story it was trying to tell. I was so invested that I even overlooked Kemi Lala Akindoju’s terrible acting in this film (There are some roles Lala cannot just play, impressive as she can be in other roles) and the fact The C.E.O is a “whodunnit” where not a single character tries to find out whodunnit until fifteen minutes till the end of the movie. I even managed to ignore the pointless scene in Morocco which I can only imagine is in there for no other reason than to up the tally of countries that the film was shot in.

The CEO, like every other Kunle Afolayan film suffers from the famous “Fine-from-far/Far-from-fine” syndrome. On the surface and for the most part, it seems entertaining, but the moment you turn your brain on and start thinking about what you’re seeing, you are stuck with a quizzical look on your face.

There will be many people that will enjoy this film immensely immediately after watching it, but the moment they get back home and begin to ruminate on what they just saw, like a kick to the head, they will most likely come to the realisation that The CEO is nowhere near as good a movie as they initially thought it was.

Kunle Afolayan’s place in Nollywood lore is not in doubt or undeserved. Many regard him as the representative voice of what is commonly referred to as ‘New Nollywood’ and they may not be wrong. What must also be said is that Mr. Afolayan has familiar demons that continue to rear their ugly heads in his films and it is hoped that he will slay them once and for all next time around.

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