Catch A Fire

Catch A Fire

On DVD: 
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Running Time: 
97 minutes

Set in the turbulent landscape of 1980’s South Africa, Catch A Fire tells the true story of an honest, law abiding man and the injustices that lead him to join. African National Congress (ANC), a group of revolutionaries opposed to the established apartheid authority. Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a foreman at the Secunda oil refinery, leads a simple life as a husband, father, and part-time coach of a children’s football (soccer) team. That is until he is wrongly arrested on suspicions of terrorism following a bombing of the refinery. He is taken by Police Colonel Nic Vos (Tim Robbins) to an interrogation camp and tortured for information. With no association to the attack, Patrick has nothing to hide, but his alibi is sketchy. Vos is coldly determined to find the truth so he arrests Patrick’s closest friends and his wife, Precious (Bonnie Mbuli), who are also tortured and abused.

When Patrick’s innocence is finally proven, he and his wife are released. Chamusso is not content to let the injustice of an unwarranted interrogation, one that led to the abuse of his wife and the death of his friend, go unpunished. He leaves his family to join the ANC as a resistance fighter and commit the crime for which he was accused; bombing the Secunda oil refinery as a statement of resistance against a racist and tyrannical ruling body.

This is a very richly developed story that is told with vivid emotional expression. What hits me the strongest is how fairly the situations and themes were presented, being that it was originally written by one of the children of the ANC figurehead, Joe Slovo. Though this pretty much goes without saying, I’m sure that director Phillip Noyce played more than a small part in this as well. The agents of the government aren’t overly criminalized nor are the main character or his relations padded with unnecessary sympathetic values. There aren’t any character judgments implied by the film itself, only a presentation of people and events. That value of an unbiased narrative really helped me to enjoy the picture.

Derek Luke does a great job. His performance really leads the film and makes sure that it reaches the emotional heights that it aims for. Bonnie Mbuli also does very well, and the two show the convincing chemistry of a loving relationship. Tim Robbins is good but his accent threw me a bit. I don’t want to say it was wrong or bad, but it was noticeably a Hollywood accent. It’s just kind of there. Every other role, character, and actor performed believably and with competence. Barring Robbins’ accent, the performances only helped to bring a greater sense of reality to the finished product. The character/actor value fades away after the first five minutes of this film, leaving only the image of real people lost in a tumultuous socio-political situation.

From the cinematography to the digital effects, the visuals are also expertly presented. Camera positioning and direction capture the scenes and environments fully without interfering with the subject matter. The digital effects are well blended with the existing backgrounds and are only noticeable when an effort is made to spot them.

I’m afraid that I don’t know the fine details of Patrick Chamusso’s actual story, so I can’t so much rate this on accuracy. I can say that Start A Fire is a good film based off of the provided narrative.

Review by Baron Aloha