True story still resonates today

Catch A Fire

on October 27, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
Director Phillip Noyce's career ranges from thrillers like Dead Calm (starring a young Nicole Kidman) to huge action movies, including both Patriot Games and A Clear and Present Danger starring the iconic Harrison Ford at the height of his stardom. But of late Noyce has been making simpler films about truly powerful things. Several of Noyce's movies, Rabbit Proof Fence and The Quiet American among them, have been about the discrepancies between classes and how societies account for old grievances. They are politically charged, and they pick sides. Catch a Fire is among this group.

This true story centers on a young man called Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke, Glory Road ) who in 1980s apartheid South Africa finds himself radicalized out of a sleep that sets his life on a path he could never have conceived. Patrick is a foreman at a chemical plant when radicals of the African National Congress (ANC) attack. Terrorists. The ensuing investigation by dedicated antiterrorism agent Nic Bos (Tim Robbins) leads to the torture of not only Patrick but also his wife. Now a man who was apolitical becomes the very thing that the government fears.

Timely in theme, Catch a Fire resonates because it is about an issue from a time not so long ago--apartheid ended in 1991--with which we can still identify. It manages a distance that is at once very present: It seems that only the regions of the world and the names in the headlines have changed. But if that were true this movie could not exist, and Peter Chamusso would still be on Robin Island with Nelson Mandela and the like. Hope, ultimately, is the message here. Hope and reconciliation.

Distributor: Focus
Cast: Derek Luke, Tim Robbins and Bonnie Henna
Director: Phillip Noyce
Screenwriter: Shawn Slovo
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anthony Minghella and Robyn Slovo
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving torture and abuse, violence and brief language
Running time: 102 min.
Release date: October 27

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