Jagun Jagun: Commendation & Recommendation [Review]
Directed by: Tope Adebayo & Adebayo Tijani
Written by: Femi Adebayo & Adebayo Tijani
Starring: Femi Adebayo, Lateef Adedimeji, Odunlade Adekola, Ibrahim Yekini Itele, Bukunmi oluwashina, Adebayo Salami, Fathia Balogun, Muyiwa Ademola, Yinka Quadri, Debo Adedayo
Runtime: 2: 14: 51
Logline: A young man determined to become a powerful warrior joins an elite army, encountering the wrath of a maniacal warlord and the love of a fierce woman.
Nothing great ever came that easy. Jagun Jagun, receiving avalanche of ovation since its release on 10th of August, is a testament to the profound creative effort and investment that must have gone into the project. Directed by Tope Adebayo and Adebayo Tijani. This period action thriller is another feather in the cap of the producer, Femi Adebayo, and the directors. Many must have thought the zenith of commendation Ageshinkole attained cannot be easily surpassed in the shortest of time—well, the team just proved us wrong.
The film addresses both social and political issues, revealing the extent of inter-tribal rivalry, excessive jingoism, betrayer, oppression and subjugation, power absorption, superpower manipulation, lower and upper class corruption, and the thriving and sinking of evil.
Also, the film exemplifies fatherly love and sacrifice, loyalty, love and romance, the pain of losing a loved one, the rising from being a weak power seeker through an untiring effort, to becoming the warrior that will eventually rip-out the destructive horns of the most powerful force in the entire seven kingdoms.
It is quite obvious that a lot must have been invested in bringing this story alive. However, the dual purpose of this review is to acknowledge the great job done by the cast and crew of Jagun Jagun, and to make recommendations that will help the industry become better and greater.
Firstly, let me confess, as many, I was largely impressed by both the story, and how the story is told. That said, my job isn’t only to offer praises, it is also my responsibility to make recommendation(s).
The unveiling of the first scene reveals two horsemen approaching a palace gate, then, into the palace that ultimately revealed Ogunjimi (played by Femi Adebayo), the warlord of the seven kingdoms.
Before going further, I must state how dignifying the costumes are. Femi Adebayo, right from his 2022 film, Ageshinkole, showed us that he knew something about the exploits of the ancient Yoruba civilisation according to his choice of costumes—he seems to have accessed the mysterious vault in the belly of the Yoruba ocean of history. This excellence should be emulated and sustained by both the established and up-coming filmmakers.
Truth be told, never in the history of Nollywood have we seen such a beautifully designed ancient palace, with striking attention to detail. I have often debated that the civilisation that birthed both Ife and Benin Bronze Heads cannot be a bunch of uncivilised mud-house dwellers; as it has been consistently revealed in virtually all Nollywood (Yoruba) films. The impeccability of the above mentioned artefacts (Ife & Benin Bronze Heads) validates the fact that, there must have been well developed artistic and engineering skills among the people that are now known and addressed as Yoruba and Benin people of western Nigeria—some 800 years ago. But sadly, this has not been well captured in films made by Nigerian filmmakers.
From my perspective, I believe the movie is an allegory of the present political order in Nigeria and beyond; extending far down in meaning. The use of symbolism to drive home points is legendary. For example, the falling of a tree on the path of Gbotija (role played by Lateef Adedimeji) is symbolic of the series of events that would soon unfold in his life.
The depth of the story has hatched diverse interpretations from film aficionados around the world. However, the last battle scene summarises the wholistic intention of the storytellers.
Lateef Adedimeji, through this movie, has again re-established his place as one of the finest Nollywood’s method actors. His brilliant performance as Ayinla Omowura in the film, Ayinla, by Tunde Kelani, is totally different from the character he portrayed in Jagun Jagun. However, with such grace, he embodied these characters in such a praiseworthy manner.
Though star-studded, nonetheless, every star in the movie gave their best in interpreting their unique roles. The acting was excellent. However, the Yoruba film practitioners are yet to completely separate stage acting from screen acting. In a theatre, the audience tends to be far away from the stage, requiring actors to exaggerate facial expressions and gestures so every audience member can see what’s going on. For instance, stage actors can’t express sadness with just a single tear, since only the audience members in the front row would see it. On the other hand, when acting on/for screen, the camera can get extremely close to the actor, which closes the gap between the audience and the actors. I believe more meaning and sympathy would have been evoked, had Erinfunto (played by Fathia Balogun) deployed more ‘deeper emotion’ in conveying her lines at the last scene, during the confrontation between Gbotija, Erinfunto (the wife of Ogunjimi), and Ogunjimi.
More so, there are a few unanswered narratives, more like the idiosyncrasy so typical of many Nollywood films. Firstly, where is Jigan (played by Odunlade Adekola) from? Perhaps more light will be provided about the character and motivation of Ikulende Agbarako (played by Ibrahim Chatta) in the sequel.
Furthermore, the film is infirm of intentional character development. Most specifically, the Gbotija character, who was first introduced in the movie as an individual who could command a fallen tree to rise. Meanwhile, after his voluntary enrolment in Ogundiji’s School of Warriors, his lack of skill in fighting before joining the school is in doubt: nothing was revealed about his growth in the act of war. Unlike what we saw in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s 2022 film “The Woman King”, how the character of Nawi, played by Thuso Mbedu, transitioned from being a weak-justice-loving girl into the warrior-justice-loving girl. At the registration stand, Gbotija, did affirm his reason for coming to the School of Warriors. In his words, “I have war in me, but I don’t have charms. That’s why I have come to the School of Warriors to learn how to fight. So I can fight with agility and become a formidable warrior.” Perhaps the audience would have been further immersed in the story and be more emotionally attached to the character of Gbotija, had there been a deliberate effort to show us the developmental stages of the supposed ‘student of Ogunjimi War School’.
Also, in my opinion, due diligence has not been given to the choice of roofs used in the ancient villages as we saw it in Jagun Jagun. This is a recurring error, similar to what we saw in Ageshinkole. I am unsure if village dwellers of the time depicted in the movie were using the type of roofing sheets, as seen in the movie. The roofing sheets were disturbingly conspicuous during the Aje Festival scene, at Aje Kingdom. I will however give the brilliant directors the benefit of the doubt as to whether the buildings with pan roofing sheets were deliberately used, or used due to budget constraints. In any case, I recommend a deliberately planned settlement to be built with old clay roofing tiles and/or beautifully arrayed thatches over the roofs of well built clay houses.
The truth is, lots of puzzles about many ancient kingdoms in Africa are still buried, better still, shrouded in mystery. We need dedication to piece together these puzzles. And that means investment, a public private investment into historical research. Well, I believe the key to unlocking the future is in the past.
Another minor concern is that nothing was written at the beginning of the film to suggest whether the film is a fictitious account or an historical account. If it’s an historical event, it would have been better if a lead was provided as to when the incident occurred in history. Besides, with the level of investment, I suppose the film shouldn’t entertain the heads. I profoundly believe it should as well take the souls on a nostalgia trip into time, such as experienced after watching Black Panther in 2018 by a few individuals dotted around the globe.
Minimal continuity errors.
One would have thought, Gbotija will be Ogunjimi’s nemesis, but the plot twist was a pleasant shock. Neither would anyone have guessed the character that inhabited the mysterious and deadly masquerade.
Jagun Jagun is in the class of its own, just as Femi Adebayo (the producer), Tope Adebayo and Adebayo Tijani (directors) are all in their own classes. I therefore make bold to say, the film, Jagun Jagun, is a success by the Nigerian/African standard. The pleasant visual appeal in spite of the goriness of some scenes, the excellent art directing, the outstanding cinematography, the sterling choreography, the admirable sound design, the VFX, etc., all came together to form an awesome whole. So far, it is safe to say Jagun Jagun is one of Nollywood’s best.