Title – Escape from Pretoria (2020)
Director – Francis Annan (feature debut)
Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, Mark Leonard Winter, Ian Hart
Plot – The true story of how three South African prisoners, Tim Jenkin (Radcliffe), Stephen Lee (Webber) and Leonard Fontaine (Winter) hatched a plan to escape the confines of their prison cell’s in Pretoria Prison.
“This is how we fight!”
Review by Eddie on 28/07/2020
Based on the true story of a 1979 South African prison escape that three incarcerated men took part in during the heat of the apartheid battle that was raging in the country, this filmed in Australia thriller feels different to most daring escape movies as we are thrust into a sweat inducing plot that will have you on the edge of your seat for a majority of the films second half.
Adapted from escapee and the mastermind behind the event Tim Jenkin’s book, Escape from Pretoria marks an impressive debut feature film from British filmmaker Francis Annan, who in partnership with his fellow countryman and lead Daniel Radcliffe ensures that this low-budget affair enthralls through the most minor of instances as we watch and wait alongside Jenkins, Daniel Webber’s Stephen Lee and Mark Leonard Winter’s Leonard Fontaine as the trio plot their master-plan.
Pretoria does away with any of the usual prison tropes where a battle with the warden or fellow inmates drives the plot, with the focus here remaining on the civil rights activist inmates and their plan dominating proceedings from almost the first moment we are thrown into the Pretoria prison.
Radcliffe is as good as his been in a lead role, his South African accent and persona perfectly suited to Jenkin’s nervy but brilliant mind, there are many instances where Annan and the one-time Boy Wizard draw stress inducing tension out of mere acts of wood carvings or in one instance chewing gum lead retrievals and its great too see the sometimes misused performer in such a well-suited role.
If there was a major drawback in the character of Jenkins and the films characters as a whole its in the fact we don’t get to fully comprehend what lead them down the path that saw them thrown into the notorious prison in the first place or what drives their friendship and connection with one another but that doesn’t stop the film from achieving what it sets out to do in its creation of a constantly moving escape thriller.
Come the films final stretch, there’s little doubt remaining that the film has you completely hooked in the unique ploy of the men, who used shear mental prowess and carefully caressed planning to enact upon one of the era’s most noteworthy acts of defiance, a powerful example of humankind’s ability to keep pushing forward in even the most dire of circumstances.
Final Say –
A prison escape movie with a difference and true to life basing, Escape from Pretoria is a fantastically entertaining watch, that while not pushing any boundaries cinematically, ensures you as a watcher will be glued to your seat for the entirety of its runtime.
4 wooden keys out of 5