Escape from Pretoria fed my craving for suspense

My heart was beating faster than it had for any film I’ve seen in a while. 

As somebody who gets easily bored during tv shows and films, I did not expect Escape from Pretoria to be this suspenseful. It gave me this false sense of anxiety; in a way, I felt like I was in the film feeling the intense emotions the prisoners experienced, and I loved it. 

Escape from Pretoria is based on a true story that happened in South Africa during the year 1978. Three prisoners, Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe), Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber), and Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter) planned an escape out of the Pretoria Maximum Security Prison in South Africa. Jenkin stole wood from the woodshop so that he could carve keys that were replicas of the real ones. He measured locks with drawing paper and a pencil; Jenkin studied the keys on the prison guard’s keyring to get an idea of the key shape. 

The actors executed their character roles beautifully and made the film feel like a thriller.”

During the time in which the film took place, racism and segregation were overarching problems in society. Jenkin worked alongside Lee as they were a part of the African National Congress (ANC) in London. They joined in hopes of bringing change to South Africa. Jenkin and Lee were trained in various tactics by the ANC such as how to spread propaganda and communication. In both real life and the film, the two placed bags with bombs inside on the streets of South Africa. When the bombs went off, leaflets with anti-racism messages filled the streets. This stunt led to their arrest and they were later branded “terrorists.” 

This movie was released on Friday, March 6, 2020, with a rating of PG-13 in the thriller/mystery film category. With my tendency of getting bored during films, I thought, “Why would this film be any different?” Yet the actors executed their character roles beautifully and made the film feel like a thriller.

The director, Francis Annan, emphasized certain parts to give it that thrill that people expect from an action film. I felt myself stepping into their shoes more than once throughout the film. This, to me as a viewer, was crucial to keeping me engaged. 

In the film, it showed Jenkin and Fontaine testing their keys on different gates. While at one of the doors, the camera focused on Fontaine’s forehead as a bead of sweat rolled off and onto the concrete floor. During the test, one of the guards off in the distance was walking back to their office which startled the two prisoners. Jenkin and Fontaine ran and hid inside a film equipment closet; all there was to hold was the head of a bolt. The guard walked past the gate the two attempted to open and noticed the sweat on the floor. My heart has never dropped the way it did after watching that scene. 

Radcliffe is very well-known for his lead role as Harry Potter in the Harry Potter films. Since his Harry Potter days have ended, Radcliffe has moved on and now pursues roles that are more mature and sophisticated; Escape from Pretoria is no different. As for Webber, this is the first film I have seen with him in it, but the Australian actor gave me a great first impression. 

From start to finish, Escape from Pretoria did not have a dull moment. The stellar cinematography and how the film connected with me, as a viewer; kept me content and yearning for more.