Now on Amazon Prime Video.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Tim Jenkin a member of the African National Congress (ANC) who was arrested in South Africa in 1978 alongside his collaborator Stehen Lee (Daniel Webber) for spreading “propaganda” aimed at ending the countries abhorrent system of Apartheid. They are convicted and placed in Pretoria state prison with other dissidents, the film shares the true story of the escape that they planned and executed 18 months later with a fellow dissident, portrayed as Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter) here.
Directed by Francis Annan, who also worked on the screenplay. The cinematic attraction of the story is the escape and that is were the film is at its best as when it does occasionally drift into applying political context it feels a little “clunky”. The lack of that political context doesn’t detract from what this really is, a tense, solidly made, prison break drama.
The cast are strong, even if some of the accents are a little uneven, Daniel Radcliffe turns in a predictably solid performance as Jenkins, I’m a real fan of his work, often choosing quirky and small budget roles and always bringing something interesting to the screen and here he brings intensity and control as Jenkins leads a daring and dangerous plan. Webber and Winter bring good support and Ian Hart as the elder “statesmen” Denis Goldberg brings necessary gravitas to the role.
Escape from Pretoria is a solid prison drama and Annan does a good job of ramping the tension with the smart use of the echoing clunks of door locks, near misses and the classic directorial trick of zooming in tightly on eyes in the highest moments of tension.
Ultimately I did feel that as a prison escape movie it was something that I’d seen before and probably done better. That said it doesn’t stop it been a watchable, intense drama that draws you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end.