A first for ILDM – The Last Flight to Abuja is a Nollywood film. This means it’s a movie made in Nigeria and it tells a story loosely based on a real-life disaster that saw a Nigerian plane crash in 2006. The film is dedicated to them but the tone of the movie is wildly all over the place and it feels more in line with a Mexican lunchtime drama than anything else.
The disasters faced
Plane malfunctions, corruption and greed, a lot of smoke in the plane, getting your leg trapped in a chair, children with strange premonitions, men who womanise and a soundtrack that just wants to bop like it’s 1997.
The Last Flight to Abuja tells its story chaotically, starting at the end and then reversing back to tell you how all the passengers and crew got to the plane. Some of this, like our Captain George, involves swapping shifts via an overly sincere conversation with another pilot. Others are on a group business trip but the company is completely dodgy and so are a couple of the staff. Totally oblivious to all of this is Suzie. She flies out to see her fiance who she catches in bed with another woman and decides that she’s going to sleep it off and go grab a new man tomorrow after work. We see her leave the car and her fiance repeatedly throughout the film as if they are padding for runtime but only got one pickup shot to work with.
Alongside Suzie is Dan, a slightly geeky business first kinda guy who has just been unlucky in love. He tells Suzie how to depressurise her ears on take-off and that is enough to trigger flirting and hugs for the rest of the movie. Dan’s colleague Adesola is corrupt and has been defrauding the company but he’s also trying to get out of the game, much to his coworker Soibiffa’s disgust as she intends to use him for more money and sex. Adesola boards the flight to Abuja, Soibiffa does not and others are speculating why. However, when the police show up at the company and then the airport trying to track Adesola down, it’s clear his days are numbered. Also on the flight are an old couple and some young sports stars to offer in some occasional screams and looks of horror when the plane starts to fall apart.
Fall apart the plane indeed does but you’d barely know what was going on. A few sparks here and there and a lot of smoke means that you’ll see more of characters coughing rather than understand anything about what is actually going. The instruments George and First Officer Seye (whom I quote “everything thinks I’m lesbian” is deemed character development) are using go out of order and they wrestle the plane around like it is a sci-fi movie played for laughs. The plane crash lands and everyone tries to bundle for the exits before it explodes. Will everyone make it? Will anyone care? What licenced song will play when the credits roll? It seems the film is more interested in the latter than the former.
Why is it worth watching?
I can’t pretend that The Last Flight to Abuja is a great movie but it certainly held my interest from a cultural perspective. I hadn’t seen a Nollywood movie before and had no idea what to expect. The sets are wobbly and strangely lit as if each room wants to be a 90’s rapper babe palace. The sound looping changes in the same scene depending on which camera is looking in what direction. There is barely any CGI or convincing green screen. The acting is wildly varied from scene to scene – sometimes verging on mumblecore, sometimes veering towards Bollywood levels of overdramatic. It certainly was an experience – I’m not sure it was a good one. None of that is down to the fact it is a Nollywood movie though, it’s down to the movies’ tone, script and pacing.
For a movie that’s only an hour and a quarter long, somehow it felt too long and too confused at the same time. There is a weird narrative that runs throughout most of the movie that pitches almost every female role as either slightly evil or needlessly sexualised. The women all seem to be there to take the men’s chauvinistic requirements for dates, hookups and flirting and few of the men seem to not be chasing skirts. When they aren’t, the women seem to assume that something is wrong with them. So much of this movie is dedicated to the topic of faithfulness that it feels like an odd preachy allegory where you expect everyone whose not holy to be killed at the end. To be fair – that’s not far off what happens. The script is woefully clumsy and feels derogatory towards women, especially in the first half of the movie.
There is also a laughable amount of soundtrack padding and this makes the feel tonally at odds with itself. At no point in a real-life disaster movie should we have the flight crew walk sexily down the airport lounge to a dance number and have all the passengers stop and look at them like it is a music video. Fifteen minutes later, some of the passengers will die but not before we have half the female leads wave their silky bouncy hair around as they get in and out of cars and chairs repeatedly. Then just before the main drama Captain George and First Officer Seye talk about she gets mistaken for a lesbian because she doesn’t bang all the captains and she doesn’t believe he is faithful to his wife because he won’t bang her. It’s so odd that this is probably the longest scene in the movie and contains some of the best acting in it too. As I said, this film won’t be winning an award for its script. Bizarrely it did win an award in the African Movie Awards in 2013 for Best Film by an African Abroad.
The CGI is terrible – on par with early SCi-Fi movies. When the plane crash lands and everyone is getting off, they just shine lights through the windows so you can’t see inside it. There is a decent looking crash site in the final shot but that seems to be where all the budget went. The sets are oddly lit too.
A lot of the characters don’t really have much development. Suzie spends most of the movie looking a bit annoyed at being cheated on but doesn’t get the upside when Dan comes along, who equally gets no development either. Their hugs and cries at the end feel so unearned. the elderly couple are hilarious in that their establishing scene just sees the man shout that he wants to give up living at his wife who won’t have any of it. Adesola is where all the character development goes to in the film as he decides to quit his thug life and do better but that amounts to him not taking the brace position for the crash landing to take his own fate into his hands. He should have listened to co-worker Yolanda who spends the entire movie fending off Adesola and deserves a medal for not just slapping him.
We’ll watch some Titanic, drink some wine, listen to Sade, bitch about men… tomorrow morning… new dawn!Suzie on how to get over a man in one plane crash
Three memorable moments
- TheTV reporter at the end totally uninvested in Suzie and Dan’s emotional hug – delivering the flatest line in the movie almost on purpose.
- The bizarre rewind VHS tape effect that takes place when the movie hits the critical crash moment but hasn’t told you everyones story yet.
- Adesola screaming “save yourself” to Dan but he’s just got his leg caught underneath a seat and the plane looks totally perfect around him.
The obligatory weird moment
I could pick so many things but the movie decides that during the emergency both the flight crew and the ground control need to explain all their instruments and problems as if they are giving exposition to the audience rather than solving the problem itself. It is so woefully clunky and I can’t tell if the movie is trying to be comedic by how heavy-handedly it does it.
The drinking game
Is it time for… a new song to enter the movie? This movie was praised for its soundtrack but it takes the approach of an American Pie style movie where a new song drops when someone drives to a new location.
A misguided tone, a clumsy script and a focus on monogamy over a plane disaster that is meant to be based on a true story. The Last Flight to Abuja was eye-opening from a Nigerian cinema point of view but is it a good disaster movie? No, I’m afraid it is not.
Rating: 1 / 5 – Awful
If you enjoyed The Flight to Abuja, then you might like…
- Airspeed – a totally terrible teenage girl alone in the cockpit plane drama.
- Airport ’79 Concorde – When a series knows its jumped the shark – it jumps gloriously.
- Sully: Miracle on the Hudson – A very decent real life miracle and the court case afterwards.
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