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“ESCAPE FROM PRETORIA” A Taught Prison Drama

 

 

 

Review by John Delia

Back on the big screen, Daniel Radcliffe takes on the leading role in Escape from Pretoria. However, while his performance is very good, the film loses some momentum with a lot of repetitious scenes. Even though many prison movies tend to drag out the inmate to inmate drama, this one lags a bit too much. Also, apartheid, the event from where the story stems gets minimized in the storyline. Still, for the thriller escape part of the true story, it’s well worth watching.

(L-R) Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkin and Daniel Webber as Stephen Lee in the drama/thriller, “ESCAPE FROM PRETORIA,” a Momentum Pictures release. Photo Courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) has joined the fight on the side of the African National Congress against apartheid in South Africa. Along with his friend Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber), the two put together light explosives that shower propaganda leaflets in the streets. The flyers are against the unfavorable treatment of black Africans and segregating them from the white population. Getting caught and charged with setting off their explosive devices, they’re brought before Cape Town’s Supreme Court and are found guilty. Tim receives a 12 year sentence because he made the bombs and Stephen gets 8 years for participating in the crime. Both are shipped off to the prison in Pretoria, Africa.

The story continues with Tim and Stephen arriving at Pretoria and being processed and locked in cells. From his first day at the prison however, Tim starts planning an escape. During his first few days he gets acquainted with some of inmates, especially Denis Goldberg (Ian Hart), an activist against apartheid, and Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter) in prison for a crime that got him a lengthy sentence. All four work together in the effort.

L-R) Ian Hart as Denis Goldberg, Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkin and Daniel Webber as Stephen Lee in the drama/thriller, “ESCAPE FROM PRETORIA,” a Momentum Pictures release. Photo Courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

Director and co-writer Francis Annan does a terrific job of using his prison set showing the maze of corridors lined with lockups and the impenetrable doors to the small cells. He moves his player around within the confines of the prison walls as they layout their plan to exit the many locked doors between the cells and freedom. The brains of the breakout is Tim who has a lot of knowledge devising useful tools to make the escape a success. His biggest issue is the keys and with a special idea of Tim’s, the men agree it may be worth risking death to break out.

As leader of the escapees Daniel Radcliffe puts on a good show as Tim Jenkin. He shows how Jenkin figures out the breakout while the others manipulate the guard’s attention. Without giving any spoilers I will say, that the ingenuity of their plan is very cool and the steps they take are even more exciting because it’s a true story. This is Radcliffe’s 13th film for the big screen since Harry Potter. Of those that I have seen, Jungle and Imperium are worth watching so check them out.

Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkin in the drama/thriller, “ESCAPE FROM PRETORIA,” a Momentum Pictures release. Photo Courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

Escape from Pretoria has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence, language and some disturbing material. I would have liked to see more on the subject of the fight against apartheid to give the film more credence for those who are not familiar with the atrocity then just the minute or two intro. Stay for the credits as it does have information on what happened to Tim Jenkin, Stephen Lee, Leonard Fontaine and Denis Goldberg following their escape.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A nicely directed and acted film that is worth watching for the thrill of the breakout. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, Ian Hart, Mark Leonard Winter, Nathan Page
Directed and co-written by: Francis Annan
Genre: Thriller, Biopic,
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and some disturbing material
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Opening Date: March 6, 2020
Distributed by:
Released in: Theaters, VOD, Digital HD

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