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I Bet You Didn't See... Escape From Pretoria


Between 1948 and 1991, South Africa was a divided country. Apartheid meant that the minority white population controlled everything and benefited most from it, while the native and black population suffered horrific discrimination.

This system worked to boost South Africa's economy to one of the fastest growing in the world until the 1970's when serious movements against the apartheid government both domestically and abroad started to impact the economy. Where almost 90% of the population were suppressed and treated poorly, it was no surprise that the economic boom couldn't be maintained.

Radcliffe as Jenkin

This is where our film comes in. Thanks to some outside influences and domestic pushes, anti-apartheid sentiment grew. Both black and white activists throughout the apartheid years were sentenced for their actions to serve time in various prisons, including Pretoria Central Prison. Nelson Mandela was held here prior to his trial.

Radcliffe (left) with the real Tim Jenkin

1979 rolls by and three men, Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe), Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) and Leonard Fontaine* (Mark Leonard Winter) are imprisoned in Pretoria for spreading anti-apartheid propaganda. The film follows their endeavor to escape from the maximum security facility by making keys out of wood during the day and testing the escape route at night.

A claustrophobic scene, hiding from the guards

The film is intense, uncomfortable at times and shot really well. The cinematography gives an amazing sense of confinement which, while you find this in a lot of prison films, is really pressed into you in this one. This is because of the reality of the situation that this film comes from. The conditions were awful, there was no rules followed and the three escapees were risking their lives for the benefit of people who didn't matter to the wider society.

I fully recommend this film. Daniel Radcliffe is fantastic, and if shows the range of his accent range. It also gives you a real appreciation of what white South African's risked for social equality at the time. Catch this film if you can.

* note - Leonard Fontaine is a fictional character, based upon Alex Moumbaris, who was the real third escapee. I can't find a reason for this change.

Directed by: Francis Annan

Written by: Francis Annan, L.H. Adams

Based on: "Inside Out: Escape from Pretoria Prison" by Tim Jenkin

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, Ian Hart, Mark Leonard Winter

Released: March 6, 2020

My Rating: 8/10

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