For many of us who got to see an exclusive one-minute teaser at the reveal of TERMINUS at GhMovieCon2020, it has never left our minds. We just have been waiting patiently for its official release. Finally, it is here and seems to be enjoying some attention.
The film starts up with the tone of a decent crime thriller that is sure to be action-packed and enough to spark healthy conversation about big pharma and its ills. Clearly, this is a subject matter that hasn’t been tackled by any film in our space. And that’s how daring TERMINUS is even on the surface.
However, when you dive deeper into it as the film progresses, the attention is shifted from the main plot and focuses more on certain characters. Even with its underlying premise at the back of your mind, you feel at some points that the film is about something else and not what its initials sets out to be about.
As per the synopsis, the chemist, Robert (played by Kobina Amissah-Sam) appears to be the lead and the centre of the story, but the screenplay best positions and favours Sakande (played by Joseph Otsiman) as that lead we should follow.
Robert is clearly in danger having made some discoveries about Quino Q; an off the counter drug that is taking lives. Some unknown persons behind the drug are after him and his findings which puts his life and that of his wife and daughter at risk.
Sakende on the other hand is a journalist whose video speaking against pharmaceutical companies and their illegalities go viral. He seems to have sparked a public uproar and caused a lot of problems for the film. He too seems to be in danger from the pharmaceutical company. Throughout the film, he is somewhat positioned as the centre of the story even long after Robert off much earlier into the film.
And there is Aduku (played by Manaf Yussif), our questionable anti-hero. He is initially introduced to us as a saviour and then interestingly, a quick plot twist reveals him as the villain in the film even before halfway through its runtime. More interestingly, his motivations are never explained and we don’t get to understand his connection with the story beyond the fact that he might be working for the pharmaceutical company ROMACEUTICAL. Aduku is made out to be possibly the ‘baddest’ and deadliest villain we have seen so far in Ghanaian cinema. So much so that an elite team of soldiers is spun up to take him down. The thought of this alone makes you anticipate the head to head action that is likely to happen between Aduku and this elite team trying to take him down.
One thing is for sure however, TERMINUS is daring. It dares not only to talk about a difficult subject matter like speaking up against big pharma and it is even daring in its executions.
Production-wise, the film is as clean as can be. The unsettling tone and intensity that an action, crime thriller deserves to have are set well with the shaky camera work and the smooth fast cuts used in the editing. There are several attempts at using CGI and VFX to tell some parts of the story. The execution might not be the best but it passes for a fair attempt. The choice of using shaky camera technique seems also to hinder the smooth tracking of some of the visual effects and green screen work. You could easily spot the shortfalls if you are paying close enough attention.
The colour gradin used doesn’t help much either. For several external scenes even, you can’t tell what time of day it is. And it’s not always established in the dialogue what time of day those scenes are set making it somewhat difficult to follow some of those scenes. Not that it matters so much, but being able to follow through the story and easily tell the days and scenes apart goes a long way to make things clearer.
The film plot seems bigger than it lets off. It makes you wonder if this first part was enough at all or how many more sequels would be needed to paint a picture clear enough. Besides its premise, there is a subplot of a drug cartel that is teased but not explored well enough. We also get to see the government interferences whilst being fed the idea of there being some shady government officials behind some of the happenings but that too is not fully explored. We see the country’s President Leila Nkrumah (played by Helen Lois) making frantic efforts to get the situation under control. But it’s not clear what she is really up to and which side she is really on.
One other thing that works for TERMINUS is the choice of cast. There are a plethora of talents in the line-up. Every Ghanaian who sees the film is bound to have at least one favourite in there. The overall delivery from the talents is great. But this prequel doesn’t allow several of these talents to shine just yet. Perhaps, we might get to see more of them in the intended sequel.
The film ends almost abruptly just when the intensity was picking up and just when it seems the story might be getting back on track. It then proceeds to tease us with some scenes from what we believe is the second part. Some of the scenes however gave out some huge plot reveals disappointingly. It would have better sufficed if they had been saved for the actual sequel. But we can only anticipate that writer and director Abu Iddris has a lot more in store. The sequel already promises to be more action-packed than what we got to see so far with more stunts and fight scenes.
Without a doubt, TERMINUS is a breath of fresh air. It proves that Ghanaian filmmakers can attempt other genres and not the regular romance themed drama’s or comedies. But it also proofs that nothing should ever be compromised in filmmaking, most especially the story.
I would rate this film 7.5/10. It sets up a fine premise and succeeds at leaving you wanting more with many yet to be answered questions. Hopefully, the sequel provides the answers needed to complete the story. Nonetheless is a daring feat that the makers should be proud of.
If you are a fan of action films or a skeptic of Ghanaian films that packs decent doses of action whilst still keeping you at the edge of your seat, you should certainly go see this film. TERMINUS is still showing at the Silver bird cinemas.