This film-maker is known to be a twists master to many of his Nigerian viewers, because he has always somehow managed to turn a perfectly decent scenario into something exciting and tension-filled. This brilliance in story conception and planning might be good enough for Nigerians so far, however, I think it’s time to break the ice, so that the upcoming film-makers, who idolize this sole concept and do not realize that there’s more, do not make the kind of mistakes that will inhibit their chances at landing prestigious distribution deals internationally in future.
There are so many things to discuss about this movie which I will manage to squeeze into the theme, the plot, the characters, the dialogue, and the pacing, and I’ll be as objective and ruthless as possible.
One thing that really worries me about this movie is the message of its entirety. In as much as I’d like to pass this off as a satire (literature about the wrongs of a society or individual), satires don’t come in that many different forms, and so this couldn’t possibly be one. I’m talking about the theme of “The Nature of a Sharp Nigerian Man”: he’s charismatic, he’s flirtatious, he’s philandering, he’s dubious, he’s stealthy, he’s scheming, and by all these, he’s successful in the end! Is this the message we are passing on to the youth? What kind of men are we breeding by showing these things are acceptable with no consequences? “A cheat’s a cheat, I’d say” doesn’t seem to stigmatize the guilty man, but only the woman. Why is Kola even the protagonist? Protagonists are people the audience can learn from; it’s inadvisable to pitch him as someone people should learn from!
Yes, Kola is an interesting character because Nigerians are interesting people, but he’s also inevitably one-dimensional, and doesn’t really change all through the movie. He should be remorseful about his nature at some point, but when the audience gets to the point of thinking he regrets and he’s changed, we see a former, original him in the end. What’s worse? We find out that he’s the actual antagonist. What?! This is not how stories are told; the protagonist is always one person, and the antagonist is another!
Still on the aspect of satire, the movie nails it suggesting that an average Nigerian man doesn’t have as much discipline or work ethics as, say, a white South African male, however, a Nigerian man, in his corrupt ways, somehow, can find a way to outsmart him. Fantastic idea! Then again, its delivery doesn’t encourage Nigerians to be more disciplined or hardworking either, as Invincible Kola gets away with everything!
Another thing that worried me but later got cleared up is the theme of the “Human Conscience”. I thought the candidates didn’t have enough reason to commit suicide, because not many incriminating details is given about them (or maybe the details are all shrouded in all that corporate jargons), but thank God it was clarified as murder.
Then, the idea of “Management Techniques” was kinda watered down by its talky presentation; the screenwriter telling how it’s done, rather than using active demonstrations to show how it’s done. More on this in the area of DIALOGUE.
Further more, the only themes that seem to work in The CEO are those of “Infidelity” and “Corruption”—as the culprits seem to be duly punished for them—but that was easy, wasn’t it? After all, they are just very minor characters that could be done away with easily. Even Eloise couldn’t be eliminated that easily, but her husband—yet another minor character—could. My mentor once commented in one of my old scripts that this method of killing off characters is a lazy writer’s method.
For the record, minor characters mean minimal effect of message. In the end, it appears this movie has no real message and is therefore not valuable to many audience. 2/10
Just as a boss needs his subordinates to achieve his full potential in an office, so does a plot needs it’s sub-plots to achieve its full story potential in a movie. At the start of the movie, I was genuinely excited as each of the characters were introduced in their various countries. Although briefly, it was just a start, but then, that was it. The next thing, they all rendezvous on a boat narrating to us their achievements in the company. This is not what I expected; when I watched the trailer, what I envisaged was an ensemble movie (multiple protagonists movie) with the private and public life of each of them explored in such a way that we see how the retirement of the former CEO takes a toll on them all. But no, we are shipped off to Inagbe Resort and the story starts there. In a nutshell, The CEO has no sub-plot!
In any case, I’d like to give credit for the little character development Eloise was given; especially with the audience seeing how sick her husband is in the beginning, they feel well carried along. This also pays off as we see the resultant effect of the mishap that befell them both, but not too well as the audience tends to feel more for Eloise than the uninteresting husband who we almost forgot. Damn, that lady is fine and she can act!
Moreover, I’ve always loved a meaningful sex scene. The CEO regrettably avoids making use of a meaningful sex scene; then comes a sex video, a plain sex video that doesn’t show the facial expression of how much Eloise enjoys it, or the very wicked, inciting styles her partner uses on her; this could help the audience and Eloise’s husband feel it a whole lot more, but no, that never happens..
On a more serious note, there were not many definitive plot points in this movie. A movie should have up to 12 plot points, but here, we only see about 2 or 3 clear points. Not fair enough.
A number of standalone, unrelated scenes, in the usual Nollywood fashion, occurred in The CEO. One would be the night party on their arrival at Inagbe Resort; nothing progressive happens here, and Adekunle Gold’s song didn’t seem to shed any light on the story either. Another, specifically, would be Jomo’s lone time at the pool; the audience had no idea he was being portrayed as an excellent swimmer; what we, in fact, saw was a fat man trying his luck at the pool. Then he arises from the pool and looks around like something is about to happen, but nothing does (I guess he’s not much of an actor). Till we later hear about his story of being a fantastic swimmer. I wonder why Kola never appeared with a glass of wine at the pool area to make smug remarks at Jomo in the pool; that would have had a better effect in the earlier scene than Kola revealing it as small-talk in a much later, completely different and unrelated scene. 3/10
The South African (Riikard) kills it for me: his facial expressions, the way the words roll off his tongue, almost as if he wrote his lines himself. In as much as we don’t know much about him apart from how he’s, somehow, on the fast-track in the corporate world, it’s always a delight seeing him. He’s one-dimensional, but pleasantly so. Or maybe I’m just glad someone’s there to give Kola a run for his money. He’s the epitome of what conflict really is. He knows his worth and confidently claims victory over others right off the bat. Even at the last ‘dancing chairs’ game, he takes charge of that game by being the one to fearlessly pull out the dancing chair like “game on!”. I wish he was the antagonist, because he has those qualities; he would have been a well loved antagonist. Unfortunately, there are bigger issues than he that inevitably unseat him as the antagonist we all thought he was at the start of the movie.
Dr. Zimmerman, later, appears to take the lead on being the actual antagonist, especially as people start dying after losing at her game. She’s unorthodox, and a freakishly weird woman. It is with her character that the film-maker proves his prowess in story telling; she’s one hell of a twisted character who appears to be against everyone, but not so. She’s just a freak, and I love her! She’s the antagonist in the movie till we realize that she isn’t. Nice stunt there.
Eloise is a fine character, who unfortunately is not fully developed. It is with her that we feel the real anxiety of the ‘dancing chairs’. She makes a human connection on what tension looks and feels like, and there’s no better way of establishing that than storming out of the conference room in sorrowful tears.
Who the hell is Lisa? Zimmerman’s assistant? Why do the Chinese dudes not want to give her an extra day? How did she get wound up in such dirty deal? Who are even the Chinese dudes, and why are we seeing that they matter now—at the end of the movie? Why does the taser that doesn’t kill Kola miraculously kill Lisa? These aren’t properly clarified in the movie, and the passion and interest of the audience gets lost at this point, even after we realize the major role Lisa’s been playing. Sincerely, this area looks like an afterthought that wasn’t well thought out before execution. The audience isn’t pleasantly surprised, and this can’t get past the fact that this area was badly manipulated; poor character development on the lady and the Chinese . We know she was all nice and chummy, but somehow, the audience doesn’t feel the revelation of her true character. This may also be because the finishing of The CEO fails woefully, and it really does, despite the fact that Kola performs beautiful Chinese.
Also, Yasmin shouldn’t have been in the cast. She’s meaningless to this tale. Lest I forget, the South African’s secretary at the office, who appears like she’s going to be active, but who we never see again?
Although, what I’m grateful for is that there are not too many characters in this movie, and all of them can be remembered, they need character development to enable the audience place themselves in their shoes. Right now, the audience doesn’t really care!
Not to forget, the story in this movie drives the character, and not the other way round. The characters do not change much, also. This is all so wrong, however, a couple of other things, thankfully, do make up for these misappropriations (not entirely though). 5/10
Nothing annoys me about Nollywood more than these two words: TALKING HEADS. They are just everywhere in this movie: Kola and Jomo, Kola and Eloise, Kola and Yasmin, Kola and Riikard, everyone at the conference, everyone at the boat cruise, Kola and the Police, everywhere, Argh!
Yes, movies can have dialogue, but a long dialogue is most likely going to fail when there are no associating progressive or meaningful actions or beats—then it would be tagged ‘talking heads’. The CEO fails a lot in this aspect.
Also, the dialogue reveals too much of what should be represented in action. It’s a rule of thumb in screenwriting: show, don’t tell. This, alone, devalues the movie, leaving it as a Nigerian/African movie, rather than it ever hitting international screens.
Another thing that worries me is the pompous delivery of the management lessons in this movie. The intention of the film-maker might have been to make this a form of business manual, but movies are solely for entertainment. For me, a successful execution of business dialogue happens in the classic movie Wall Street (1987); it’s a business movie that could pass as not—because of the human connection it makes; the jargons are there, but they are also dumbed down in other related dialogues. Yes, the management jargons in The CEO movie go hand in hand with the selected victims’ backstories, however, this can be easily lost on even an average IQ who is in it for the fun. It’s a brilliant idea, but isn’t tactful as the audience aren’t duly considered. The dialogue in this area of the movie is too on-the-nose, I’d say; too real-life (corporate-like). This is not a good thing. 5/10
The pacing in The CEO is almost just right; not much time is wasted in a number of scenes. Some of the audience remain glued to the screen all the way, though they get disappointed sometimes, and in the end, as it appears that all that suspense they’d just experienced doesn’t satisfactorily pay off.
There are so many expectations of the movie, as established from the trailer and a couple of conflicts in the movie, but they aren’t fully developed or taken advantage of.
This film-maker may have assimilated, to a modest extent, the art of suspense and immediacy, he, however, needs to understand never to underestimate the true importance of coherence in screenwriting; Alfred Hitchcock (the Master of Suspense) wouldn’t be so pleased by this movie’s engineering. 6/10.
On a more general note, The CEO appears to be an offset of this film-maker’s previous movies: The Figurine, where people die mysteriously till it’s discovered that there’s a killer who no one ever suspected; and Phone Swap, where there’s a change in itinerary (Riikard’s trip), and the concept of top executives going on a retreat at a resort, pitching against one-another. Apart from all that, these aren’t new concepts in international screenwriting; the least that could happen—which I believe is what this film-maker tries his best to achieve—is the application of a fresh and unique approach to utterly bedazzle a hungry audience. 21/50
Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.
She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.