Catch a Fire

Year: 2006
Studio: Focus Features
Director: Philip Noyce
Writer: Shawn Slovo
Cast: Derek Luke, Tim Robbins

Not long after Philip Noyce's renaissance as a director of dramatic conscience (but before he changed his mind and embraced the machine again with Salt), this was his erstwhile comment on the War on Terror – how the actions of authoritarian powers trying to defend against terrorism can run away with their own mandate and create it.

Young father and husband Patrick (Luke) just wants to keep his head down and take care of his family in apartheid-era South Africa. When he and his wife are targeted by the regime on trumped up charges, jailed and subject to horrendous conditions and treatment despite their innocence, Patrick rebels by becoming the very thing they were trying to stop.

He travels to the north of Africa and trains to carry out terror attacks against the government, returning to South Africa where he goes underground, trying to stay one step ahead of white/Dutch/South African cop Nic (Robbins).

As a serious drama more than a thriller the script does a good job of humanising Nic by giving him a family he cares about, and rather than a tale of good versus evil it's about the gulf of understanding between cultures and how easy it is to forget we all want the same thing no matter what colour we are.

It's not as didactic as you think it'll be, and Noyce cements his artist's soul by being attached to the film even if it doesn't call for a lot of technical artistry.

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