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Escape from Pretoria


Stars: Daniel Ratcliffe, Daniel Webber, Ian Hart, Stephen Hunter, Nathan Page, Mark Leonard Winter

Director: Francis Annan

In the late 1970s, South Africa's Pretoria Prison was not only feared, but well nigh impregnable. That's where ANC activists Tim Jenkin (Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Webber) find themselves after being caught distributing (by explosives) leaflets condemning the then-prevalent Apartheid system.

Jenkin gets 12 years as the ringleader and Lee eight.

After more than a year of assiduous planning, during which Jenkin uses his photographic memory to make wooden copies of most of the guards' keys, a daring escape plan is launched with the help of French activist Fontaine (Winter). There's a fair bit of suspense involved here, as the would-be escapees need a helping hand from the godfather of the prison, played by Hart.

Dodgy South African accents abound, Radcliffe's especially (the film was made in Australia). Apart from that, however, Radcliffe is fine, with Page memorably hateful as the ever-watchful chief guard, who coats his duties with a little too much relish. Director Annan screws the tension lock-tight at the narrative rumbles along.

David Quinlan

Australia/UK 2019. UK Distributor: Signature. Colour (unspecified).
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Mar 2020