Eagle Wings is only the third film from writer-director Paul Apel Papel. While several characters in this sweeping military epic are named after real-life people, it’s a work of fiction. At the very beginning, Papel dedicates his movie to the brave men and women of the Nigerian Air Force specifically and the military overall.
Wing Commander Nura Yusuf (Enyinna Nwigwe) has just wed the love of his life, Dooshima (Patience Ene Ujah). Unfortunately, shortly after the nuptials, insurgents attack, putting all armed forces members on high alert. This includes Nura, though Dooshima begs him to bargain to stay closer to home. But, her husband is a patriot and goes about his duties.
While out on a mission one day, Nura’s jet malfunctions, and he’s forced to eject. This causes him to lose communication with his commanding officers and other pilots. The military higher-ups and Dooshima fear the worst, though they vow never to stop searching for him or his remains. Nura survived the accident and stumbles across a small village in which its townsfolk have several grievances against the government, so by extension, the man and what he represents. Through patience and calm, he tries to dispel their misgivings while holding out hope that someone is coming for him.
There is probably an argument to be made that Eagle Wings is so ride-or-die for the Nigerian military that it is a bit propaganda-y. But, even if it is, as a cinematic endeavor, it works splendidly. However, there are a few minor issues. The biggest problem is the final five or so minutes. This epilogue, set six months after the bulk of the story, hamfistedly spells out every theme and gives each character arc a neat, tidy bow. In a narrative that had taken a somewhat more natural view up to that point, it sticks out. The runtime, including credits, is over two hours, so excising this would shorten the film and strengthen the themes, as it wouldn’t treat its audience with kids’ gloves.
“…Nura’s jet malfunctions, and he’s forced to eject. This causes him to lose communication with his commanding officers…”
The other flaw is much more minor but more persistent. Papel chose to use digital blood effects instead of practical squib work. Practical effects can be mighty expensive, so the choice makes sense. Sadly, top-shelf CGI is also expensive, and the blood squirts from people getting shot here look very cheap and are poorly colored.
Beyond that though, Eagle Wings is an enthralling watch. Nwigwe gives a commanding, charismatic performance. He’s sweet and romantic when dealing with his wife and cool under pressure when gunfire is constantly whizzing by his head. Ujah’s Dooshima does disappear for stretches at a time, but her chemistry with the lead makes it easy to buy them as a couple in love. As the wing commanders searching for Nura, Femi Jacobs and Yakubu Mohammed are a lot of fun.
The cinematography, by Pindem Lot, is also stellar. The action beats are thrilling, while the country’s terrain is beautifully captured. Chuck Okudo’s score matches the visuals in both grandeur and effectiveness.
Eagle Wings doesn’t need the epilogue, and the use of digital blood is cheap-looking. But, the plot is powerful, the characters are strongly written, the actors are excellent, and the visuals are amazing. As such, Papel’s epic motion picture earns its lengthy runtime for the most part and will please most movie nerds.
To fly with Eagle Wings, go it the film’s official site.
"…Papel's epic motion picture earns its lengthy runtime..."