Written and directed by Konrad M. Defang, Caller ID: Unknown is a 2023 survival drama that stars Bankz Bantar, Ngongang Elizabeth, Assala Kofane and Onyama Laura.
Inspired by the true events of conflict, the film finds an unsuspecting young woman caught in the midst of battle. War suddenly breaks out in her village, Nkwenti tries to escape but soon finds herself in the jungles with soldiers hot on her trail. As the killings ramp up, Nkwenti is panicked and hopeless until she finds a cellphone from a dead body. In her desperation, she dials a random number, hoping that someone on the other end would pick up and save her. Her luck is good and a man named Essono picks up on the other end. Is he trustworthy? Will he get her out of her conundrum? Or is the man working for the monsters who killed numerous civilians? Nkwenti would soon find herself in the fight of her life, clinging to hope from a person she has never met.
Caller ID: Unknown is great where it counts. This is a barebones survival thriller through and through, inspired from the consistent cycle of violence. There is war, there is death and amidst all the chaos, an innocent young woman is on a desperate journey to save her life.
The central plot is believable, the twists and turns surprising and the foreboding tension throughout the film makes for a great story. The makers behind the project use the shoestring budget really well. From the jungle sets to the violence, the film has it all. The action is well choreographed and the horrors of war are captured in all of their unfortunate brutality.
In regards to the acting, it is fantastic across the board. Laura Onyama as the protagonist Nkwenti is perfect and she carries the entire film across her shoulders. She is strong when she needs to be, vulnerable when the situation demands her to be and a beacon of hope and inspiration in this tale of perseverance. Equally impressive is Kofane Assala as Essono, the voice of strength and reason at the other end of the line. While these two make the entire film, the supporting cast is equally impressive as well. Each part and character is fleshed out properly, allowing actors to seamlessly transition into their onscreen counterparts.
For a thriller to work, pacing is everything and it is here that the film manages to excel as well. The editing is perfect, playing up the tension in the story into a crescendo as Nkwenti tries to outsmart the evil soldiers hunting her in the jungle. Ensuring the audience remains invested is key here and the director ensures the film is captivating through pacing the narrative in a way that keeps the audience on its toes. Not to spoil the ending but we thought the film concluded in a way that was fulfilling; the ending was thematically resonant and wrapped up the conflict in a satisfying manner.
For all these complex parts to work together in unison, the director needs to be at the top of his game. This is where Konrad M. Defang works his magic; he balances the thematic aspects of the script with the visuals really well. He knows when to slow down the action and allow for drama and he knows when to ramp up the violence when it services the story. Since he wrote the script himself, Defang is the perfect person to bring the script to screen. Directors work best when they write their own scripts and Defang manages to translate his work on the screen flawlessly.
Thus, to summarise, Caller ID: Unknown is a powerful thriller about survival. Laura Onyama gives a fantastic performance, one that the audience will remember for a long long time. War is hell and Caller ID: Unknown apprises the audience that the search for freedom will always vanquish forces of darkness that seek to extinguish it. It is fascinating to see such a moving drama come out from Cameroon and it cements the idea that the next wave of great filmmakers will indeed come from Africa. Konrad M. Defang has thus made a fantastic film, one that will not only inspire filmmakers from his continent but will also move audiences across the globe.