‘Lockdown’: Unlocking The Good And The Not So Good
The above headline simply means I want to talk about what I like about the film Lockdown, what I don’t like and (the miscellaneous) matters arising. And in case you’re wondering why I’m just reviewing a 2021 film, well, Lockdown premiered on Netflix this August (2022). The crux of the Lockdown story is what happens when a group of people (from the clichéic different walks of life) end up in a hospital (New Cavalry Hospital) through all kinds of incidents and coincidences. The hospital is put under total lockdown as result of a strange patient Omar Samir (Fareboulous Oyibo Rebel) who tests positive for the dreaded Holo virus. Mr. Omar had arrived in Lagos from an international flight and requested to be taken to a hospital which turned out to be New Cavalry Hospital. In the process of being booked for consultation, with his health worsening, he throws up over the counter on Nurse Chiamaka wrongly identified in the end credits as Chidinma (Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha). And while on admission, he attempts to escape, Dr. Alexis Njoku (Omotola Jalade Ekeinde) wrestles and manages to stop him with the help of a nurse who jabs him from afar with an injection that instantly throws him off.
This is the roll call of those who ended up in lockdown at the New Cavalry Hospital: Kunle (Benjamin Touitoui) who’s trying to beat the infamous Lagos traffic to get to the marriage registry for his court wedding. His best man Sam (Jide Kene Achufusi) is navigating what’s supposed to be a shortcut when they see a little girl, victim of a hit and run, and Kunle insists on taking her to a hospital much to his friend’s objections. Bride-to-be Funke (Emem Inwang) is not finding this turn of events funny. Her mother, Mrs. Adeogun (Sola Sobowale) who has pulled out all the stops and planned week-long events is even more vehemently against any delay or cancellation. Angela Okoroji (Ini Dima Okojie) is a job applicant who needs an urgent medical certificate for a job interview. Sunny Akpobasa (Josh ‘Josh2Funny’ Alfred) is a slum boy who’s just won N10million that can change his life. But in the ensuing excitement, his father Papa Sunny (Charles Awurum) lifts him up and he suffers a nasty cut to his wrist. Sunny too ends up at New Cavalry Hospital after being sent away by the nearby local chemist.
Martins Oche (Tony Umez), a courier delivery person has one last delivery to enable him collect his allowance from which he can buy drugs for his terminally ill wife. It just so happens that this delivery must be personally signed for by the intended recipient, Dr. Njoku, who turns out to be busy, which is the reason Mr. Oche is still in the hospital when Mr. Omar is brought in. Philandering husband Tony Amokachi (Deyemi Okanlawon) is AWOL the night his pregnant wife is rushed to New Cavalry Hospital. Eager to make amends and seek his wife’s forgiveness, he opts to remain by his wife’s side after the lockdown was already in effect.
No doubt, this is a fictional take on the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. On July 20, 2014, a certain Liberian American diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew into Nigeria through Lagos enroute Calabar or Port Harcourt for some conference. He fell sick in Lagos and was rushed to First Consultants where one of the consulting doctors Dr. Stella Amevo Adadevoh suspected Ebola which Sawyer refuted. Liberia was one of the Ebola epicentres, even though that wasn’t a common term at the time. Anyhow, tests later confirmed Sawyer had Ebola, but not before he had infected some of the medical staff at the hospital-which led to the death of Dr. Adadevoh on August 19, 2014. She, more or less, sacrificed her life when she physically stopped Sawyer from leaving the hospital as he seemed bent on going to the larger society. This could’ve sparked a bigger outbreak of Ebola and could’ve led to the death of millions of Nigerians.
Lockdown coming to Netflix in August, the month Dr. Adadevoh died instantly is a reminder of the 2014 Ebola fight. However, this is not the first fictional attempt at telling the story of how Nigeria narrowly survived what could’ve been a devastating Ebola outbreak in 2014. 93 Days, a 2016 Steve Gukas film retold that story with more attention to the actual events. I was unable watch the entire 93 Days film because the events were still too fresh. This is why one of the things I like about the (2022) Lockdown attempt is the infusion of humour to the story. This reminds me of an Opa Williams film on HIV which featured Bovi Ugboma. His character proposed to his girlfriend whose Army dad requests for an HIV test. What happened before Bovi’s character received the results of the test was extra hilarious. Still, it allowed the audience to ponder on the very serious and frightening HIV while laughing. But I digress.
All things considered, there are other things that I like about Lockdown. For starters, the film is visually appealing. I like the music and sound. Although I don’t understand the choice of the song that plays during the end credits. Something about searching for a girl around the world ‘she dey for shokoto.’ I also like the reappearance of old Nollywood faces like Charles Awurum and Tony Umez. You can discountenance the trend that has turned Tony Umez into a popular internet meme. Still, it was good to see him being the same Tony Umez, with the same confused.com look. It bears repeating that I like the new take on the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Lagos and that there was an effort to lighten the mood. Even if the Ebola period is far from many people’s memory, COVID-19 is still fresh. Nigeria and by extension Lagos attempted a total lockdown in the early days of the coronavirus, even though it was short-lived, out of necessity. But at least, many can now relate to what it means to be in a lockdown.
Nonetheless, there are a few things about Lockdown that I don’t like or understand. Actually, they can all be rolled into one peeve: Lockdown is long, make that too long. Being too long means certain parts of the story drag. If the 2hrs 23 minutes film were to have been 30 minutes (or more) shorter, some subplots or even characters could’ve been trimmed off. Conversely, Lockdown dragging on gives me extra time to poke and prod. For instance, the bit about Sunny (Josh2Funny) going first to the chemist could’ve been cut off. I mean he’s a brand-new millionaire, why not go straight to New Cavalry Hospital? As he later says when his friend Jasper (Nasiru ‘Nasboi) Lawal warns him that New Cavalry Hospital must be an expensive hospital: ‘Do you know who you’re talking to’ or words to that effect.
I also have a few questions: Was being a courier delivery man the only way Tony Umez’s character could’ve been incorporated into Lockdown? Why was Dr. Njoku attending to someone who has tested to a dreaded virus that “will kill millions of Nigerians” with only a face mask? Not even a hospital gown and she definitely used no gloves. After wrestling with Mr. Omar, we only see her washing her face, not a change of clothing or anything like that. To make matters worse, if they can be made worse than the possibility of contracting the Holo virus, Dr. Njoku, even after the hospital has been placed on total lockdown, even after she has coughed suspicious phlegm into her palm, continued to interact with those on supposed quarantine.
Why were there two protests from Sunny’s ghetto boys? Why did Funke and mother (Sola Sobowale) disappear so unceremoniously from the film? It could’ve helped to see them at home after it became obvious the wedding wasn’t going to happen after all. One could also wonder why it was so easy to call off the wedding. You mean, no one was concerned that the groom could die, not one person in the bride’s family was concerned about him? On one hand, bride’s mum tries all kinds of tricks, tries to bribe the police, etc. to get Kunle out. At this point she didn’t care whether he could infect her or other people only for the bride to turn around and say she couldn’t continue with their relationship on the possible chance he could’ve contracted the virus? Come on! I think I should stop here. By the way, I was just happy to see Jerry Amilo. He looks good. I will refrain from commenting on the police bit except to say the police in Lockdown must be the police of the new incoming Nigeria. Selah!
Something is just not right with the graphics…Around 50 minutes into Lockdown, the subtitles begin to do a disappearing act. There are scenes where no subtitles appear. It goes downhill from there. In the end, what viewers get are delayed subtitles, that is, the subtitles from preceding scene or scenes appear later in another scene when the dialogue is completely different. This was hugely distracting, to put it mildly. I tried unsuccessfully to deselect the subtitles.
Still on graphics, some of the actors’ names in the opening credits are written differently in the end credits. For example, while the opening credits have Benjamin Touitoui, the end credits have Ben Touitoui. Some names are jumbled together: Jidekene Achafusi instead of Jide Kene Achafusi. Same for Inidima Okojie instead of Ini Dima Okojie. How does anyone seeing these names for the first time know which is the correct version? Shouldn’t a film have the final and best version of actors’ names? If you can’t be sure of the names in a film’s credits, where then do you expect to see the correct names? I’m really peeved about this, just in case it’s not obvious enough. My final point on this graphics miss is the unusual arrangement of the end credits. They begin with actors’ names on the left followed by their character’s names on the right. For example: ‘Deyemi Okanlawon-Tony. Midway into the credits, the order is switched, and characters’ names come on the left while actors’ real names go on the right. If this isn’t the height of confusion, I don’t know what to call it. This ordinarily should be a piece of cake. I am sorry, some of us wait for the end credits.
By the way, what was the whole hoopla at the end of the lockdown? Surely, even the fictional Holo virus couldn’t have disappeared after the 21 days lockdown, not when some of those who’d quarantined have tested positive. Yet, there was nothing to show that this deadly virus we’d been told ‘will kill millions’ was no longer active. At the very least, one expected those who came to receive their loved ones to be wearing protective coverings like face masks and not the huggingfest that went on.
In the final analysis, Lockdown attempts to do too much. Even if we had just the story of the groom who gets side-tracked into a hospital lockdown, and all the intrigues that ensue, it could still have made for a more interesting viewing. Instead, we have a situation where three extra films (at least), can be made from this one Lockdown.
Director: Moses Inwang
Featuring: Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Sola Sobowale, Deyemi Okanlawon, Chioma Chuwkuma-Akpotha, Ini Dima Okojie, Benjamin Touitoui, Charles Awurum, Josh2Funny, Norbert Young, Tony Umez, Ada Ameh, Peter Okoye, Jide Kene Achufusi