Movie Title: Jagun Jagun
Release Date: 10 August 2023
Director: Tope Adebayo and Adebayo Tijjani.
Runtime: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Cast: Adebayo Salami, Dele Odule, Yinka Quadri, Muyiwa Ademola, Odunlade Adekola, Fathia Balogun, Lateef Adedimeji, and Femi Adebayo
It’s hard not to notice a pattern while reflecting on the number of Nigerian films released annually. It is in the sense that, among the hundreds of movies showcased yearly, there is always one that positions itself as a significant contender for the best movie of the year. In addition to its stellar casting and production design, such a film delivers excellently on a crucial part of filmmaking: storytelling.
Although it seems too early to confer a film with such accolades in 2023, without a doubt, Jagun Jagun ticks off most of the boxes on the requirements of a good Nollywood flick.
Produced by Femi Adebayo, Jagun Jagun tells the story of a warlord, Ogunjimi, feared by the people within and outside his community. However, the arrival of a young man reveals his insecurities, as he fears that his authority may soon be displaced.
The trailer and teaser materials for Jagun Jagun were enough to spark national raves and anticipation among viewers. The two-minute trailer promised viewers an epic action experience that would keep them on the edges of their seats. Judging by the film’s number one position on Netflix Nigeria’s trending list and its 4th position on Netflix UK’s trending list, it’s safe to say that it delivers to a certain extent.
Jagun Jagun lays a precedent for what Nollywood producers should consider if they decide to produce an epic film. The Tope Adebayo and Adebayo Tijani co-directed film takes the execution of stunts, production designs, and acting performances to a whole new level, immersing viewers in a fictional world where they most likely don’t want to leave after two hours and fourteen minutes.
However, the film is somewhat off the radar regarding flaws, as it solidifies the argument that more attention needs to be paid to visual effects and editing.
Before you continue reading, kindly beware of spoilers ahead. Gbotija (Lateef Adedimeji) is a young warrior who arrives at a warrior training camp to get trained and avenge his father’s death. Upon arriving, he realises that he may have bargained more than he asked because a ruthless leader, Ogunjimi (Femi Adebayo) is at the helm of camp affairs.
After many training sessions, Gbotija is sent out to fight in a war. Things go south as the warriors on the battlefield are primarily young and inexperienced. Angered by the decision of the group leaders to hide away while the war was being waged, Ogunjimi sends out a spiritual assassin, Agemo, and punishes the absent officials by depriving them of food and freedom.
Another warrior, Wehinwo (Adeoye Adeyemi Elesho), goes against Ogunjimi’s command and gives food to the officials, leading to his death. News of his demise reaches home, infuriating his fiancee, who consults with a herbalist to kill Ogunjimi’s wife (Fathia Balogun).
Fortunately, Gbotija saves her, thus earning respect among other group members. Gbotija’s popularity soon reaches the ears of Ogunjimi, who becomes jealous and decides to kill two birds with one stone. After a high-ranking officer, Gbogunmi (Ibrahim Yekini Itele), in his group rejects his command, he proposes that Gbotija fights to the death with Gboogunmi. Gbotija later experiences a bitter win.
With the promise of a promotion, Gbotija undergoes several challenges. On his final challenge, he realises that he’s being played. It leads to a confrontation with Ogunjimi, where only one can come out alive.
Jagun Jagun boasts a good script. One can quickly tell that several thoughts, editing, and reviews went into the scripting as every event and scene contributed to the film’s endgame. It was refreshing to watch a movie mostly void of irrelevant scenes that would leave viewers wondering, “What was that for?” The twists and turns were another favourite part of the script, as many were unpredictable. Even when it was obvious that Gbotimi would eventually betray Ogunjimi, viewers were in the dark about how such an event would happen.
The film’s cinematography is top-notch. With several fighting scenes, the film had a high chance of having different sloppy camera angles, but the directors found a way to make things work, which is quite impressive. Don’t even get us started on production design; the commitment to building an entire set that evokes the ancient era is truly an A-lister move.
Diving into acting performances, many of the actors delivered. It is unsurprising, as the film contains many famous young and veteran actors. However, actors like Lateef Adedimeji shine bright as the protagonist, balancing the scale of a compassionate and fierce warrior. Femi Adebayo doesn’t miss the acting mark either, as he incites fear both in the minds of his characters and viewers.
Stunts are also a significant element of the show. It was pretty emotional to watch a Nigerian film that did not cut away from fight scenes but showed professionals engaging in a well-choreographed action scene.
Firstly, the editing and visual effects. Although, understandably, the Nigerian film industry is slowly incorporating special effects into movies, the use of a few in Jagun Jagun comes off as undone. A good example is the first scene where Ogunjim chops off a man’s hand; one could quickly tell that it was fake as there was a disparity between the hand and background.
In terms of editing, the texts come under fire. Many transitions felt seamless, while a few appeared as cut and join.
Secondly, what happened to Ogunjimi? Characters kept referring to Ogunjimi as a fearsome and ruthless warlord, but viewers were stripped of the opportunity to witness his fury until the end. It would have been great to watch Ogunjimi fight in wars, punishing his enemies ruthlessly.
Lastly, as cliche as it may sound, it would have been more realistic for the writer not to initially bestow Gbotija with so much spiritual power. He could have been portrayed as weak but developed a strong personality. It provides a solid character motive that drives his action.
Watch it. Even though Jagun Jagun bears similarities to films like King of Thieves and Orisa, it raises the bar for Nigerian epic movies.
Jagun Jagun is streaming on Netflix.
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