Every year, at least one movie comes along to strengthen your faith in the industry. This action thriller made in Nigeria, by Nigerians, for Nigerians is the prophet shouting in the wilderness “Don’t give up on Nollywood, a lot of good can come from Nazareth.”
Recent stories (some great) have been murdered on the altar of pizazz, technical exhibitions, vivid imagination, and primary school stage play endings. Movies start off with great promise and become an absolute mess as it goes along, making you curse the soul who recommended it, ruing the time wasted. Fiyin Gambo’s The Blood Covenant is a perfect example, the story quickly becomes a wild horse that the director cannot rein in. The excellent chemistry between the friends and the somewhat stellar acting was ruined by the worst ending ever made (exaggeration? It is streaming on Prime, go enjoy). My to-do list features an article titled “God Calling- a lesson in storytelling”, to show all the things we want from a Nigerian movie. The Black Book offers a storytelling masterclass of its own and becomes the standard.
This is a genuine 10/10 movie, an instant classic you will enjoy all the way. Onu m juru na ekele, I do not know where to start from. I will refrain from turning this into a writing lines exercise (this movie is great, this movie is great, this movie is great) and try to form my thoughts. Let’s get to it, here is why this is my movie of the year:
Reality: This very emotional story is as real as it gets. Everything is authentic and relatable, Nigeria on candid camera. Not a single thing is out of place, nothing is movie magic. It just shows pure, unadulterated Nigeria. Power, military might, corruption, oil blocks, suppression of truth, the struggles of journalism, SARS, kidnapping, criminal infiltration, a few good men, religion, herdsmen, illegal mining, desert training, marketplace, Lagos showcase without Ikoyi bridge, a network of street children (absolutely loved this), and on and on it goes. Tales from your local barbing salon. Hats off to the writers, they were on steroids. Excellent work as well with the naming of the characters, Edima, Osaretin, e really touch everybody.
Coherence: Everything makes sense like in This is the key to the kingdom. The multiple stories and themes on display do not interfere with or hinder one another. Feminism and the struggle of IVF are also worked into a story that already shows so much. A movie can preach, teach, entertain, and END WELL.
Action: A broken man with nothing to lose is my favourite type of action (I mean the generic cow-dung John Wick story rides on this alone and is the greatest action movie of all time, Ha-Ha). An assassin’s bond with his wrongful victim (Chow Yun-Fat things), sweet cloak and dagger, and realistic combat (that kitchen fight). I too want to buy Peruvian Jacquard. So much fun.
Casting: Every role was cast right. They really did bring the squad, biceps, triceps, and quads. The lead needs no introduction, we have watched him grow from lover boy abi man, playing with Aunty Bimbo’s Tutu, to Stella Damascus onscreen husband, to Bop Daddy, and now he is Uncle Paul. He delivers as usual, no surprise there. The absolute joy of seeing fan favourites at every turn. Uncle Sam Dede, Alex Usifo as the BOZ, Ikechukwu’s big head, the placement of Sandra Ezekwesili’s voice, Femi Branch, and Funky Mallam, outstanding. As the veterans enjoyed their testimonial with nothing to prove, Ade Laoye shines as Vic Kalu, full marks, she really did take us to church. Even Denola as Jesu works up to a point, as his character feels borrowed from you know where (having a little fun with it eh).
Pacing: Perfecto! Never slow and not too fast. Your senses are engaged all the way. They made us care and feel things at just the right time and in just the right amount. Old Nollywood would have wasted eons on the film’s emotional opening.
Line delivery: Right place, right time. They knew when to inject it. Personal favourites, “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay,” “Paulo, you still dey do bush meat”, “Mechie gi onu” (she’s not even Ibo), “Share the groundnut.”
Cinematography: They didn’t beat us over the head with it like Jagun Jagun but the craft is still on full display. The father-son beach scene, the ship, the church, and seeing Christ through the Priest’s eye, were all superbly done. The hard evidence scene made my jaw drop, and I clapped at the moving truck disappearing act.
Soundtrack: There must be plans to release this film’s score to the public, it is very good. Music is an essential part of movie making (it is why you love Gladiator so much), it helps you feel it. I am on my knees, please give me the sound playing in the church during “the telling.”
Few things count against this movie (pedant me searched and searched), and they can be somewhat excused. Taking cover from gunfire by a car you just sprinkled petrol over. Maybe it was done to highlight Angelo’s incompetence or to show that you are not really thinking when it hits the fan. They did show they were aware of it, at the explosion rocking Mr. Dreadlocks’ world and leading to his capture. The overkill on the dreadlocks message, believe me, we got it the first time it was mentioned (we live this thing on a daily), I guess it was just part of the characters listening to the radio (don’t overthink it).
To end this joy ride, I will say pay close attention to General Issa’s speech at the end. This is Nigeria.
Glory to God, we are way past Van Vicker boasting that it takes 2 weeks to make a movie (3 years this one took). The Black Book is an artistic success and surely a commercial one too (Chai! Big screen release would have rocked).
Available on Netflix, Please go WATCH IT NOW!
Don’t have Netflix? We got you. We will sponsor the month’s subscription plus data plan for 10 students (follow & drop a comment, we will slide in).
🎶 I Do Believe In Nollywood
I Do I Do
I Do Believe In Nollywood
I Do I Do 🎶