Escape from Pretoria: Film Review

Escape from Pretoria

Daniel Radcliffe has been making very interesting career choices since finishing Harry Potter and he continues that with Escape for Pretoria, a thrilling film about a real-life prison escape. 

Radcliffe plays Tim Jenkin, a real-life anti-apartheid activist who is sent to Pretoria Prison in 1979 along with his friend Stephen Lee (Andrew Webber). They are determined not to stay in there for the whole of their sentence, so they make a plot to escape – along with Frenchman Leonard Fontaine (he’s a fictional person based on Alex Moumbaris) – by creating wooden replicas of the prison keys needed to make an exit. 

This is an unbelievable tale. Even knowing this was based on a true story, I struggled to believe that using wooden keys and handmade lever mechanisms to turn heavy metal prison doors actually worked. That’s amazing! The film is so tense. On some of their escape attempts or trial runs, I was holding my breath, my heart was pounding and I was gripped, waiting for them to be caught. 

However, while it works very well as a thriller in those scenes, the film as a whole is very flimsy and thin. The characters are very one-dimensional, the script is clunky, and I would have liked to have been more invested in the people. Radcliffe certainly helps elevated the material, even though his South African accent is extremely inconsistent. Kudos for giving it a solid try though. 

Escape from Pretoria is tense, gripping stuff at times but largely let down by the sub-par script.

In cinemas now 

Rating: 3/5 

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