‘Collision Course’ is a Harrowing Tale of the Nigerian Reality
Police brutality. Bribery. Extortion. Extra-judicial killings. This is the Nigeria we know, the Nigeria we live in, the Nigeria that stares us right back in the face. It is because of this same Nigeria that the #ENDSARS protest in October 2020 happened.
The protest was a revolutionary movement that first started on social media before it was taken to the streets to show Nigerians’ disapproval of the notorious Special-Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) and their nefarious activities that included that which has been mentioned above.
Collision Course echoes this dark period in Nigerian history using characters that hit a little too close to home and actual footage from the #ENDSARS protest. Its message is clear from the beginning; the experience of the protagonist, Mide, and the brutal violence he experiences in the hands of the fictional TARZ (Tactical Anti-Robbery Squad), is a visual representation of how young men in Nigeria are treated by the police.
If you drive a luxury car, you’re automatically branded as a “yahoo boy” and deserve to be punished; if you use an iPhone, then your source of wealth is questionable; if you have an “excess” amount of money in your bank account, then you’re not making an honest living. It’s a draining, emotional cycle of oppression and suppression that continues even as the revolutionary protest has stopped gaining media attraction.
That’s just one side of the story – the side of the oppressed. The film also delves into the lives of the oppressors, the police officers, and how their unfavorable work conditions and unstable personal lives push them to act like brutes. Magnus, a corporal in the Nigerian police force essentially becomes a frustrated man because his dream of “serving my country” has turned him into an impoverished man that can barely provide for his family. Because of his inadequacies, his wife, Ekaette leaves him, taking their children along with her.
Police officers are humanized in this tale of good versus evil. With Magnus’s plot, viewers get to see – this is believed to be one of the main themes of the film – that there is such a thing as two sides of the same coin. However, the pulse of sympathy for Magnus’ lot in life is lost because of the narrative painted at the beginning of the film. If the national bandwagon is “police officers who abuse their power are evil” then why should Magnus be portrayed as a victim of his willing circumstances? Why should he get a pat on the back for killing the man who refuses to give him a bribe?
Is the film attempting to not hold police officers accountable for their actions? Magnus killed Mide by accidental discharge and instead of owning up to his “mishap,” he called his friends from TARZ to help finish the job. If indeed the director wanted to show “two sides of the same coin”, all that can be said is that one side lived and the other didn’t. The side that didn’t is the reason why people hit the streets with placards.
“The system is the enemy, not me,” Mide passionately tells Magnus before his death in an attempt to find common ground with the officer. But, what exactly is “the system”? The system is ordinary people, humans who either have power or become powerless. Hannah, Mide’s fiancée, put it best when she said that there is a divide among “the system” living in the country. With her analogy of the Island (Mide) and the Mainland (Magnus), she perfectly captures the ongoing problem of social stratification. If everyone was born equal, if there weren’t any Magnus’ and Mides, maybe life would’ve been fairer. Maybe Magnus would’ve been given better pay and he wouldn’t have resulted to seeking extra income from TARZ. Maybe Mide’s music career would’ve taken off and he would’ve lived long enough to watch his unborn child grow up. All these “maybes” are a series of what could’ve been but never was- another harsh reality in Nigeria.
Collision Course is a well-thought-out film that deserves every ounce of praise it has received since its release in 2021. It masterfully highlights hard-hitting conversations that have taken place in the country, while shining light on other conversations that seem to be ignored by both the bourgeois and the proletariat. The many hours logged behind the scenes – coordinated scriptwriting, over-analyzing, constant tracking of the happenings in the news and social media, and paying attention to small details – gives the film an edge over other theatrical releases. It’s real, it’s brutally honest and it’s empowering in a way because, at the end of the film, the “unsung heroes” of the #ENDSARS protest are honored and given another befitting burial.
Also, in the sea of Nollywood’s obsession with comedies and romantic comedies, this film stands out and it will continue to stand out for generations to come. “Collision Course” is definitely worth the time and popcorn…and tissues.
Streaming Service: Netflix
Release Date: November 12, 2021 (theatrical release); September 2, 2022 (Netflix release)
Run-time: 1hour 12minutes, and 50 seconds
Director: Bolanle Austen-Peters
Cast: Kenneth Okolie, Daniel Etim Effong, Ade Laoye, and Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha