In 2023, ‘The Black Book‘ emerged as an electrifying Nigerian crime thriller, masterfully crafted by Editi Effiong. This riveting cinematic masterpiece features a stellar ensemble cast, including Richard Mofe-Damijo, Sam Dede, Shaffy Bello, Femi Branch, Alex Usifo, Ade Laoye, and Ireti Doyle. Audiences were captivated when it graced Netflix screens on September 22, 2023.
From RottenTomatoes, After his son is framed for a kidnapping, a bereaved deacon takes justice into his own hands and fights a corrupt police gang to absolve him.
THE BLACK BOOK FILM REVIEW.
“You might never see me again, but I must leave you one last task. It would help if you felt no guilt about doing what you must do. The past must be to save the future truly“, narrates Paul Edima.
Welcomed by the vibrant rhythms of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat anthem, “Ako,” the movie commences amid a traffic jam on Lagos’ bustling streets, where cars and motorcycles are at a standstill. Suddenly, armed individuals storm the scene, forcing Mr. Craig, a man of considerable wealth, to surrender himself. Shockingly, due to the cry of his infant child and the compassion they felt for the child, they also seized it. The police swiftly arrive, apprehending one of the culprits while the others evade capture.
As is customary in Lagos, news of such incidents spreads rapidly through the press. In this case, the media reports that the detained criminal linked to the kidnapping of Mr. Craig, has escaped. He is described as a tall black male with dreadlocks. This triggers a manhunt to track down the escapee.
Damilola Edima and his father, Paul, reside in this vibrant city of Lagos. Damilola, an individual who humorously refers to Jesus as Santa Claus, receives an invitation from his father to attend a church fellowship event. This proposition proves challenging, as Damilola harbors resentment toward God for the tragic loss of his mother. Despite his inner conflict, he resolves to please his father, if only for this one occasion.
As he makes his way to the church after a day’s work, an unforeseen obstacle arises when he encounters SARKS, a formidable military presence on the streets. To their eyes, Damilola appears to fit the description of the escaped criminal. In a grim turn of events, the SARKS operative accuses him of being involved in cybercrime, commonly known as “Yahoo” activities, tragically ends his life by the shoreline.
The driver responsible for Damilola’s journey to church suddenly finds himself accused of complicity in the crime. Fearing for his safety, he flees to the church and urgently informs Paul about the horrifying incident. Filled with a potent mix of sorrow and rage, Paul, who also holds the title of Deacon, follows the driver to the beach, where he discovers his lifeless son, the victim of an unjust killing.
As he awaited the police investigation, he made his way to the police station in search of documents related to his son’s tragic murder. However, his request was denied, leading to a surge of frustration that ultimately boiled over into a violent outburst directed at an officer.
Consequently, he found himself behind bars. In this dire situation, Vic Kalu, a determined journalist, driven by the pursuit of truth, stepped in to secure Paul’s release.
Consumed by anger and grief, Paul is driven to abandon his newfound faith and return to his previous, darker ways. From this point forward, the story takes a grim and violent turn as tensions escalate and the pursuit of justice carries a bloody path.
The Black Book emerges as a standout in Hollywood’s 2023 film lineup. It captivates its audience through a diverse cast of characters, stunning visuals, and masterful cinematography. Moreover, as mentioned in the introduction, it delves deep into critical themes that resonate with Nigerian society.
Going into this film, the only thing I had seen was the trailer, which Netflix posted on Twitter, and this trailer sparked a wide range of opinions about whether the driver responsible for taking Damilola Edima to church was supposed to be present when the SARKS operative labeled him an accomplice or whether he was supposed to run for his life. Remarkably, the trailer alone offered a profound insight into Nigerian society, compelling me to take a chance on the movie.
As customary, I will commence my review by discussing the cast, highlighting those who left a lasting impression and others whose performances may fade into obscurity.
I found Paul Edimna’s performance to be awe-inspiring. His presence on the screen was dominant, making it impossible for me not to be captivated by his character. He and Vic Kalu, who also played a significant role, underwent adequate character development. These two individuals unquestionably stole the spotlight and left me thoroughly engaged. I genuinely admired their characters and the way they brought them to life. However, it’s worth noting that their portrayals weren’t flawless, as there were moments of overexpression and instances where they could have displayed more emotion. Inconsistencies in their performances were apparent.
Additionally, although portraying notorious roles, Alex Usifo, Sam Dede, and Shaffy Bello delivered theatrical performances that left a strong impression.
The visual aesthetics, locations, and set design were exceptional. The cinematography, lighting, and costumes were historically accurate and creatively dynamic. The production crew deserves commendation for their remarkable work, and the sound quality was impeccable. Yinka Edward, as always, excelled in photography, and the set design effectively conveyed the rugged ambiance of the story.
The first and final acts were both noteworthy, with the latter creating a tense and captivating atmosphere. However, I must admit that the second act left much to be desired. While I understand it served as a build-up to the climax, I struggled to focus on the film during this part. It felt disjointed and uninteresting.
The action sequences in this movie needed more precision, undermining the film’s potential impact due to poorly executed and disorganized action scenes. Effective directing and cinematography should ensure clarity, even amid chaotic moments.
The central theme of this movie aimed to inspire people to stand up and take action against the unjust framing and killing of innocent young men, emphasizing the message that “Silence is the enemy.
This beautifully done crime Nollywood film delves into the universal human experience, transcending geographical boundaries and highlighting that the thirst for power is not confined solely to developing nations like Nigeria. The producer spared no effort in portraying the sinister nature of this instinct and its corrosive influence on all aspects of life.
The actors delivered exceptional performances, showcasing their depth and talent, although Nollywood still has room for improvement in executing Hollywood-caliber action sequences.
This film is rated R and can only be seen on Netflix.
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