Airline disaster movies often follow the same narrow formula, no matter what their country of origin.
We meet the cross-section-of-society passengers, pick up on their soap operatic/melodramatic lives, meet the flight crew and get a hint or two or three about what’s about to go wrong.
The Nigerian “Nollywood” production “Last Flight to Abuja” applies that formula to one of a string of real-life accidents that hit the country in 2006.
It’s fictionalized and formulaic, from the passenger (Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde) who has just “surprised” her fiance at home, only to catch him in bed with another woman, to the womanizing account executive (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) flying, on a company retreat to the planned city capital of Abuja, with the worry that his skimming off company contracts and other crimes are about to become public knowledge.
The pilot (Anthony Monjaro) just switched flights with a colleague. The boss who organized the retreat and another colleague miss the plane.
They grow corn in Nigeria. Do they have an equivalent for the expression, “corn ball?”
But director Obi Emelonye gets a gripping third act out of this modestly-budgeted thriller. Flashbacks, a blur of images summarizing what every passenger went through to make this ill-fated commuter jet (“30 souls on board”) flight, the discovery of smoke in the toilet, all are shot and cut together punching up the suspense.
Fictionalized or not, the “Living in Nigeria” touches are nicely-incorporated — traffic jams, snatch-and-grab cell-phone thefts in those traffic jams, middle class worries, touches of affluence.
And then there’s the frank exposure of Third World air travel — safety shortcuts being taken, a lone air traffic controller who brings his kid to work (!?) and gripes about how he should’ve taken the day off to avoid “this palaver,” flight maintenance logs kept on a ringed notebook you pick up at a Nigerian Dollar General.
The acting is uneven, ranging from solid to cringe-worthy. The dialogue is heavy on the romantic banter, from the ladies’ man passenger joking about “bracing positions” (for a crash landing) innuendo, to the love-life chatter in the cockpit.
But the finale (including cheesy fake animation) almost pulls this Flamingo Flight 212 out of its formulaic tailspin. Almost.
MPAA Rating: TV-14, adult situations
Cast: Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Jim Iyke, Jennifer Oguzie, Anthony Monjaro and Celine Loader
Credits: Directed by Obi Emelonye , script by Obi Emelonye, Tunde Babalola and Amaka Obi-Emelonye. A Nollywood Film Factory/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:15