Catch a Fire (film)
|Catch A Fire|
US theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Phillip Noyce|
|Produced by||Tim Bevan
|Written by||Shawn Slovo|
|Music by||Philip Miller|
|Edited by||Jill Bilcock|
|Distributed by||Focus Features (US)
Universal Pictures International (UK)
Catch a Fire is a 2006 biographical thriller film about activists against apartheid in South Africa. The film was directed by Phillip Noyce, from a screenplay written by Shawn Slovo. Slovo's father, Joe Slovo, and mother Ruth First, leaders of the South African Communist Party and activists in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, appear as characters in the film, while her sister, Robyn Slovo, is one of the film's producers and also plays their mother Ruth First. Catch a Fire was shot on location in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.
The film begins in "Northern Coalfields, South Africa, 1980". It revolves around Patrick Chamusso, a young, apolitical man (played by Derek Luke) who is accused of carrying out an attack against the government, and an Afrikaner police officer, Nic Vos, played by Tim Robbins. Vos is in charge of locating the perpetrators of a recent bomb attack against the Secunda CTL synthetic fuel refinery, which is the largest coal liquefaction plant in the world.
Patrick is unwillingly swept into Vos's investigation due to his inability to provide a satisfactory explanation for his whereabouts at the time of the bombing (he was actually having an affair with a woman not his wife). Eventually Patrick, his wife, Precious, (played by Bonnie Henna), and his family are tortured and savagely abused by Vos and Vos's subordinates. Desperate, Patrick says that he is willing to confess to a crime he did not commit to protect his family from torture. At last, Vos finally concludes that Patrick is innocent, and orders his release.
Fuelled by the anger at the injustices he and his family suffered, Patrick joins Umkhonto we Sizwe, the guerrilla military wing of the African National Congress and becomes exactly what Vos had initially accused him of being. This decision was an act of revenge against the government for killing his friend and tormenting not only himself but his wife as well. He attempts to execute a plan to attack Secunda, the oil refinery he used to work for, by first bombing its adjacent water supply facilities, and 15 minutes later triggering the main explosion within the refinery itself. This would allow the refinery's workforce to flee between the two explosions, and not be harmed. Also, the damage of the first bomb would reduce the possibility of successfully extinguishing the fire caused by the second, main explosion. Patrick succeeds in the first part, but the second bomb is discovered by Vos and deactivated.
Patrick is arrested and sentenced to 24 years in prison, after his wife goes to Vos and tells him where Patrick is, because she fell for a simple trick in which Vos left photographs of Patrick talking to a female member of the ANC. Through her unjust jealousy she sells him out. He is released early due to the abolition of apartheid.
Precious, who has remarried, is waiting for him and apologizes, and Patrick forgives her and he says he is sorry as well. Some time later, he has been trying to adjust to normal life but the pain he felt wouldn't leave him. One day, he sees Vos sitting out near a small body of water opposite to the side he and friends are on. He creeps over and through some brush sees that it is indeed Vos, and though a part of him wants to break Vos' neck, he decides that it is not worth it, and the real Patrick Chamusso is shown explaining that he told himself then and there that only through forgiveness would he truly be free. He left Vos alone, and went on to remarry and take in over 80 orphaned children in South Africa to provide a home for kids who lost their families during the anti-apartheid struggle.
- Derek Luke as Patrick Chamusso
- Tim Robbins as Nic Vos
- Bonnie Henna as Precious Chamusso
- Mncedisi Shabangu as Zeko September
- Tumisho Masha as Obadi
- Sithembiso Khumalo as Sixpence
- Terry Pheto as Miriam
- Marius Weyers as the Field Commander
- Michele Burgers as Anna Vos
- Mpho Lovinga as Johnny Piliso
- Malcolm Purkey as Joe Slovo
- Robyn Slovo as Ruth First
- Patrick Chamusso as himself
- Sibusiso Mhlongo as a Photographer
The film received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 75% out of 141 professional critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.6/10 and the critical consensus being: "No stranger to the political thriller, director Phillip Noyce tackles apartheid and terrorism with experienced gusto, while Derek Luke and Tim Robbins hand in nuanced performances.".