A lot of hype and fanfare have followed the release of “The CEO” and perhaps, one would not expect another to ask why as it is coming from the stables of Kunle Afolayan.
The director, whose last film was the award-winning movie “October 1,” returns with the whodunit “The CEO.” And considering that over the years, Afolayan has fast developed an ardent following among the intelligent viewers, expectations for this new movie are definitely on the high side.
Set mainly on a beautiful beach resort on the outskirts of Lagos in Nigeria, the film is a mystery-thriller surrounding five top executives from across Africa who are dispatched on a one-week leadership retreat by a multinational telecommunications firm, Transwire, to determine which one to appoint as the firm’s new CEO.
Things take a different turn when one-by-one, the executives are eliminated in sudden death circumstances, and the finger falls on the surviving executives as prime suspects.
The plot of the movie is an original one that explores blackmail, the corporate world, and as expected, superstition.
“The CEO” kicks off on a very slow pace. A slow pace that makes it possible for Afolayan to deliver his end of the deal to his sponsors. The slow paced scenes came off as expensive, fancy and well-made TV advert. Viewers could literally list all sponsors of movie.
The movie starts with Kola (Wale Ojo) apprehended by the police. His arrest ushers in the popular flashback technique used by Afolayan in his works as Kola takes viewers through a superbly told narrative.
The moment the movie truly begins, the advert scenes are gone or probably not noticeable, as the action and suspense begin, and the viewers are taken on a mystery and thrilling ride that plays on characters and visuals all through the movie.
“The CEO” has brilliant visuals layered with witty lines exchanged between Rickard and Kola, Kola and Dr. Zimmerman (Angelique Kidjo), Kola and the Superintendent Ebenezer (Hilda Dokubo).
With a clever casting, “The CEO” comes with good performances, strong and expected performances by all actors. Every actor does a brilliant job in their respective roles.
In Wale Ojo we are offered a fiercely talented actor, who grabs your attention with his skills and dialogue, and compels you to witness his mastery in acting. Kemi Lala Akindoju doesn’t play a landlady/Beauty, she plays a character which appears to be her least arduous ever, but she delivers as a self-effacing and innocent looking HR executive.
Hilda Dokubo is a scene stealer with her effortless sense of humour, facial expressions, mannerism, and dialogue as a superintendent. Auriel Eliam delivers a credible character in Eloise: strong, fierce and a victim. Peter King and Fatym Layachi also delivers relatable characters, Jomo and Yasmine respectively.
Angelique Kidjo as Dr. Zimmerman is an absolute natural. She does justice to the character, expressing her with so much mystery, an act which helps to build the suspense in the film.
Afolayan smartly weaves a thrilling story, with every scene being relevant. The Kunle Afolayan technique of having the viewers think and ask questions with open-ended scenes, plot, and twist, isn’t missing in “The CEO.” Just as fans were tasked with asking “Does the Araromire have anything to do with the strange happenings” in “The Figurine, “The CEO” leaves them asking “What does the musical chair game have to do with the deaths?” “Who is Dr. Zimmerman?” “Is it pure coincidence that she seems to have dirts on all the executives?” “How much does she know?”
The cinematography is charming and attractive. Attention is paid to details, and the editing is taut.
On the flip side, there are issues with the character who plays a part in the movie’s resolution. The character could have been further developed, a lot more could have been done. Viewers are left to decide and discuss how much physical assistance the villain had, or discuss how unbelievable most of the killings are. At what point did the villain go rogue? What motivated some of the killer’s actions? The character could have been further explored.
And that fight scene between Rickard (Nico Panagio) and the rest? That has to be my least favourite scene and comes off as forced and rushed on every level.
There are very few scenes which end up as humorous despite the suspense. Regardless of those comic relief scenes, “The CEO” is a serious film that does not offer the conventional entertainment that viewers seek from most Nollywood movies. It is a brilliant and bold project by Kunle Afolayan.
On the whole, “The CEO” might not be Afolayan’s best work, but it is a highly engaging piece of work that grips your attention for a greater part of it, and has you guessing, asking lots of questions, thinking, and solving mysteries.