Eagle Wings is the first Nollywood film we’ve reviewed here. No, I didn’t misspell Bollywood, Nollywood is the name given to the second-largest producer in the world, the Nigerian film industry. Despite that output, Nigerian films don’t seem to make it to North America that often, so when a screener for this one came my way I naturally checked it out.
The film opens up with title cards and credits that tell us some important things about Eagle Wings. Some of the characters are named after real military officers in honor of their service, but they aren’t meant to depict the actual person. And that the film was made “In collaboration with” Nigerian Air Force Investments Limited. In other words, it was at least partially financed by the Nigerian Military. Or to be blunter, it’s a government propaganda film.
And surely enough Eagle Wings opens with rebels riding into town, shooting civilians and demanding they turn over Wing Commander Nura Yusuf (Enyinna Nwigwe, Beautifool, The American King-As told by an African Priestess), who they know is hiding there. He gives himself up, and as a gunshot rings out the film goes into flashback.
A month before, Nura married his beloved Dooshima (Patience Ene Ujah). But the rebels have launched a new offensive and she’s worried for his safety. He tells her it’s his duty, but not to worry, nothing will happen to him. After he gets back from his mission she gives him the news that she’s pregnant. Of course, on his next mission, his plane suffers a mechanical failure and he crashes in rebel-held territory.
The most notable thing about the first half-hour of Eagle Wings is the incredible lack of subtlety. All of the military personnel and government figures are noble, heroic and talk about duty to God and country. The rebels are seen gleefully shooting civilians and we get a long scene with a random young boy and his mother before the boy is blown up by a bomb in the local market. I know it’s propaganda but it doesn’t have to be so blatant and in your face.
There are also way too many irrelevant scenes as the film ping pongs back and forth between assorted meetings between politicians, generals, and whatnot. Eagle Wings runs a full two hours and ten minutes and badly needed shortening. There are plenty of scenes that could have been combined or simply eliminated.
After Nura crashes things get a bit better as his fellow pilots Paul (Femi Jacobs, Betty’s Love Triangle, Dysfunction) and Yisa (Yakubu Mohammed, Tenant of the House, FAntastic Numbers) along with an Army unit search for him. Even the long stretches of them searching for him as the film’s score plays in the background make a welcome relief from all the pontificating and speechifying. Not that Eagle Wings ever stops preaching to us, we just get less of it.
As they search Nura has to win over the townspeople who have issues with the government and deal with the rebels. This is complicated by their leader General Korinjo (Uzee Usman, Enigma, Lagos Real Fake Life) taking a local girl named Amina (Jamila Ibrahim, Ikemefuna, Voiceless) hostage and Baku (Abdul U. Zada, Voiceless), one of the general’s soldiers, having doubts about the cause he’s fighting for.
Writer/director Paul Apel Papel (Why Not?, Least Expected) shows some solid technical ability. Eagle Wings looks good and has some effective action scenes. He was obviously trying to create a propaganda/recruiting tool in the style of Top Gun. And for what he had available to him he did a fairly good job visually apart from horrendous CGI bullet hits.
Unfortunately, his skills as a writer, or maybe the demands of the government, let him down. Eagle Wings is much too slow-paced for an action film. Too many scenes drag out way too long and there is just too much cringingly obvious propaganda. One can deliver a message like this subtly, worked into the story to get past the audience’s defenses as it were.
Eagle Wings may have done well in its homeland, but viewers elsewhere, such as here in North America will probably find it a lot harder to sit through. Papel would probably have been better off cutting it down to ninety minutes for foreign release. Shorn of the propaganda non-Nigerian audiences won’t care about it would have had a much better chance of overseas success.