Escape from Pretoria by Francis Annan [7/10]

Prison escape movies loom large in my childhood memories, so I gravitated readily towards “Escape from Pretoria,” dramatising the escape attempts by three apartheid activists from a South African prison during the dark ages of oppression. This is an escape film pure and simple, with only a short “how they ended up in jail” preamble before Tim Jenkin (whose memoir this is based on, he is played with aplomb by Daniel Radcliffe) is figuring out how to carve cell door keys out of wood. The cinematography is close-up and intense, the dialogue wastes no space, and the prison atmospherics strike true. Francis Anna, who directed and co-scripted, ekes out increasingly fraught tension from scenes of stealth and jeopardy. There are no grand morality themes here, just the do-or-die efforts of ethical activists to break out of incarceration hell. Recommended.

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