Catch a Fire Reviews
This film stars Tim Robins (best known for "The Shawshank Redemption" and his Oscar winning performance in "Mystic River), and Derek Luke, a fine young African-American actor who's previous credits include "Antwone Fisher", "Friday Night Lights" and "Biker Boyz".
Based on true events, the film takes place in 1980 apartheid South Africa and tells the story of Patrick Chamusso (played by Derek Luke), a humble black South African oil refinery foreman who has two young daughters and a beautiful wife named Precious.
One day his simple life is torn apart when there is a bombing at the oil refinery and he is snatched from his home by the Gestapo-like Police Security who accuse him of being a part of the terrorist attack. He is imprisoned and viciously tortured by his interrogator Colonel Nic Vos (Tim Robins).
Vos is a well versed manipulator, that even goes so far as to bring Patrick home to his family for Sunday brunch where they make nice around a tense table and then Vos takes Patrick out into the backyard and continues to integrate him.
Still, Patrick proclaims his innocents and finally Vos stoops so low as to arrest and torture Patrick's lovely wife Precious. Patrick gives a false confession to save his family, but Vos, sensing that Patrick is innocent, releases him.
The lingering anger that wells inside of Patrick drives him to leave his family for Mozambique, where he joins up with the ANC and becomes a rebel political operative.
Australian director Philip Noyce ("Patriot Games" and "The Bone Collector"), creates an air of tension from the very first frames and his camera is intensely intimate as it explore the lives of the oppressed and the oppressors. The story moves along briskly and does it's best to avoid melodramatic pot holes as it races towards it's made for Hollywood, true-life ending.
Derek Luke is fabulous as Patrick, showing a great range of emotion and strength playing a man who is beaten down only to rise up again.
Tim Robins imbibes Vos with an intense, simmering evil as he slowly creeps under the skin of his interrogation victims.
I was only in my early 20's when I really started to take notice of the apartheid oppression that was smothering South Africa and I remember the pressure the rest of the world placed upon its government to treat all of its citizens as equals.
I also remember the end of South African apartheid, when Nelson Mandela was finally released form prison and de Clerk was forced to usher his country into the 20th century.
When I watched "Catch A Fire", with it's scenes of innocent people fighting against an evil regime, I couldn't help but compare it to the real life wars in the world today. History repeats itself with only subtle changes.
Catch a Fire has its bumps along the road since the plot is rather slowly paced and the story is fairly basic and limited to a small space, but it's still enjoyable.
While the film takes place on a small scale despite being part of a significantly larger picture, there is no denying the intense and shocking effect of the political crimes that take place in Catch a Fire. Its material has all been explored before in other films on a larger and more intense scale, but in Catch a Fire director Phillip Noyce reminds us that his directional talent has not decreased in his many years as a filmmaker and that his ability to tackle apartheid and terrorism is intelligent and strong.
The drama in Catch a Fire is strikingly powerful most of the time, and while there are some periods of waiting around for massive drama to strike, Catch a Fire manages to keep its atmosphere intense thanks to the drama that the screenplay deals with in its story and dialogue, combined with the efforts of a dedicated cast and cinematography which is mostly claustrophobic and therefore enhancing the intense visual experience that Catch a Fire aims to be.
Combining Shawn Slovo's script with Phillip Noyce's direction, Catch a Fire turns out to be a surprisingly effective film which has a sufficient amount of drama to it to carry it through 101 minutes of cinema.
But the main source of success in Catch a Fire comes from the performances of the two lead actors.
Derek Luke's performance is one of absolute incredible strength which has a tenacious grip over all the intense political drama that Catch a Fire explores. In his finest performance since Antwone Fisher, Derek Luke manages to combine the intense elements of his character's physicality which comes naturally to him and comes out with a powerful effect. His talent is similar to Chiwetel Ejiofor's but played off in a significantly smaller scale film, and Derek Luke proves to make an intense lead with a real grasp over his character
Tim Robbins' South African accent is flawlessly convincing in Catch a Fire because it is never excessive or ridiculous, but rather realistic and sensible. He manages to integrate his accent finely into his line delivery and follow it up with the kind of intense stare that an actor like Dennis Quaid uses to convey intense drama. It works, and so Tim Robbins' dark and intense performance is one of his strongest since his Academy Award winning role in Mystic River from 2003. He has a real intense tenacity over his character and director Phillip Noyce ensures that he gets everything out of Tim Robbins that he truly can.
So Catch a Fire is an intense and excellently acted film with enough intelligence and strong direction to overshadow the faults of its pacing