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Review of Escape From Pretoria

By midlandsmovies, Apr 26 2020 10:00AM




Escape from Pretoria (2020) Dir. Francis Annan


Based on the real-life prison escape by three political prisoners in 70s South Africa, this new drama is adapted from the book Inside Out: Escape from Pretoria Prison by Tim Jenkin, one of the escapees.


Jenkin is played by Daniel Radcliffe whilst Daniel Webber plays his friend and fellow campaigner Stephen Lee. The two are sentenced to prison time after a leaflet bombing campaign in support of the banned ANC group (famed for Nelson Mandela’s support and subsequent imprisonment). And the two white men are chastised in court for throwing away their white privilege in Apartheid South Africa.


As they are stripped of their clothes and possessions, the film shows us the typical hard-ass curmudgeon guard stereotype who explains how bad things will be in prison. At this point, hints of the Shawshank Redemption and similar jail movies came flooding back – however, it’s to the film’s credit that the real story takes off in another direction.


If it wasn’t for it being a true tale, audiences may not have believed their plan which simply involves them copying the keys to the prison doors. Away from their rigid routine, intriguing scenes of the group testing their devices – from carving tools in a woodwork classroom to adapting a broom – keep the audience informed of their plans and the fantastic performances are believable and likeable.


The film’s tension rises as they begin testing the keys at night after lockdown. Getting further and further each time, the film’s nail-biting trial and error approach and escape attempt scenes are the very definition of edge-of-the-seat thrills.


Unfortunately, the politics take a bit of a backseat at times but the underlying reasons for their escape from their incarceration means audiences will support them the whole way. With a thrilling finale, Escape from Pretoria is an engaging and exciting true life story of a daring true life break out.


★★★★


Michael Sales

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