out of Five
Running time: 102
Engaging, superbly acted and ultimately moving drama, marking a welcome return to politicised film-making for director Phillip Noyce.
What's it all about?
Based on a true story, Catch A Fire stars Derek Luke (from Antwone
Fisher) as Patrick Chamusso, an apolitical family man with a decent job as a foreman at the Secunda Oil Refinery in South Africa. However, when the anti-Apartheid African National Congress (ANC) attack the refinery, Patrick is suspected of sabotage and interrogated by brutal police chief Nic Vos (Tim Robbins).
Unfortunately, Patrick's alibi doesn't hold up, due to a past indiscretion that he's desperate to keep hidden from his wife, Precious (Bonnie Henna). However, after the police take steps to force a confession, Patrick is stunned into action, leaving his family and joining up with the ANC.
This is a gripping thriller that explicitly endorses the line that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, an idea that is none too popular in today's troubled times. The film carries a powerful message and the irony in the fact that Vos essentially creates a terrorist is not lost on the audience, even if it is never explicitly stated.
Luke gives a terrific performance as Patrick, convincingly portraying the change from laid-back family man to angry activist, so that we completely understand and support his actions. This has an unusual effect in that, towards the end of the film, we desperately want him to succeed in his mission for the ANC.
Robbins is equally good in support, nailing the South African accent and delivering a chilling, underplayed performance that's extremely effective. The superb script makes its points without being heavy-handed and frequently offsets the tension with moments of humour.
It's also worth sticking around for the end credits, which feature some delightful footage of the real Patrick larking about with Luke.
This is a gripping political thriller and Luke has 'The New Denzel Washington' written all over him. Highly recommended.