by Wilfred Okiche
You might be forgiven if you are tempted to give up on ‘The Awakening’, the new supernatural thriller directed by James Omokwe and Ethan Okwara in it’s opening scene. A tad reminiscent of the prologue in ‘The Figurine’ but never as taut, some of the chronic problems of Nollywood films are immediately on display. There is the delirious over acting co-existing alongside actors incapable of making much of an effort and there is the young actor. strikingly out of place and time, rocking the punkish hair cut favoured by today’s pop stars (the prologue was set decades, maybe centuries ago).
But if you look past these and stay beyond the snail pacing of the first half hour, you might be pleasantly rewarded with one of the most unusual films to come out of Nollywood in recent times. Combining the fight scenes of an action thriller, eerie special effects of a horror film and tension of a slow burning thriller, ‘The Awakening’ is a puzzling hybrid that works on some levels even if it all seems rough sewn.
A beautiful reporter (Kehinde Bankole) is bored with her job and itches to do some more investigative reporting. She takes delivery of a strange box with strict orders not to open. Her curiosity gets the better of her and soon she is trailing a promising young advertising executive (O.C Ukeje) who keeps getting eerie premonitions. In their quest for answers, they turn to each other for guidance and are caught on the wrong side of the law, pursued vigorously by an uncommonly dedicated cop.
‘The Awakening’ works best as a thriller, there is an honest attempt by the makers to give audiences things they haven’t seen on a Nollywood big screen before, even if some of it is derivative of standard Hollywood genre pictures. Flashes of the ‘Final destination’ series occur predominantly and you may identify the film makers’ influences in some of the scenes. There is a generous use of special effects and while not exactly state of the art, these turn out to be the real star of the picture. The fight scenes do not make you want to cringe and the make up and visual effects crew do fine work in their departments.
An unexpected but beautifully drawn out illustration scene steps things up a notch and helps to advance the narrative and one is left in awe at the scale of the team’s ambitions.
Things do sour a bit more though. The sound could have been better managed especially the outdoor scenes and screenplay editing should have been a bit more aggressive.
It is not an actors film and the directors have no embedded interest in the actors who are left to their own devices most of the time. O.C Ukeje is required to carry the film and he does so credibly, putting up a restrained performance suited to the role. Kehinde Bankole who has had brief roles in ‘The Meeting’ and ‘The Return of Jenifa’ complements Mr Ukeje and is fully appreciative of her co-lead status even though she is sometimes given to unnecessary episodes of melodrama. Newcomer Deleke Aroloye has some scene-stealing moments as the super cop on the hot tail of the hero.
The film’s last scene/epilogue makes an untidy error, attempting to convince us the events we just saw occurred sometime in the nineties; an impossibility with the liberal use of Blackberry phones, tablets and screen shots of Lagos statepost-Fashola.
Flaws and all, ‘The Awakening’ makes for decent viewing and leaves us expecting more from the talented brains and hands behind the camera(s).