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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

By midlandsmovies, Sep 26 2016 03:24PM

Imperium (2016) Dir. Daniel Ragussis

With vaguely similar themes to this year’s Green Room and with Donald Trump’s presidential run to the white house in full flow, “white power” is very much in the public conscious in 2016. This thriller, written and directed by Daniel Ragussis, stars Daniel Radcliffe as Nate Foster who is an FBI agent that goes undercover in a white-supremacist group to expose and disrupt their bombing plans.

Radcliffe is great as the studious office worker who is asked by a superior agent – played by an understated Toni Collette – to shave his head and blend in with the fanatics’ aims to unleash a dirty bomb.

The tension is high every time he meets the group with his cover being almost blown a number of times and Radcliffe’s American accent is entirely convincing and as good as the one he delivered in Horns. Again, as someone who isn’t particularly au fait with early Radcliffe, the post-Potter roles chosen by the actor (including this year’s Swiss Army Man where he plays a corpse) have been brilliantly selected.

Against type, Radcliffe centres the film with a “role within a role” playing simple scenes with a false cockiness that gives an undercurrent of doubt in every conversation. Being found out at any time is a constant worry and Radcliffe handles this duality very well as he tiptoes around any awkward exchanges.

A family-man plot parallels the theme of duplicity as a close-knit suburban father with a welcoming demeanour hides a much darker secret whilst there are allusions to the real life right-wing figures of Timothy McVeigh and Rush Limbaugh.

Apart from Radcliffe though the film tends to boil down to a run-of-the-mill drama with a dashing of ticking-clock thriller. One strong central performance helps the film’s core but cannot completely sustain it unfortunately. Conversely for me, it was nice to see the character not tempted by the other side (unlike British film “I.D.”) whilst others may feel this a lost opportunity to add more layers.

With the USA’s current political landscape a mix of racial disharmony and extreme solutions, Imperium looks much closer to home for its villains and tackles a range of home-grown topical issues. Sadly, Radcliffe aside, the film’s stereotypical narrative beats failed to lift this beyond its well-worn premise but the first time director handles the themes and issues with a mature capability making Ragussis definitely one to watch.


Midlands Movies Mike

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