Escape from Pretoria – You won’t believe it’s a true story ★★★★

Based on true events, Escape From Pretoria follows Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) who was arrested for distributing leaflets against the South African apartheid regime. He was subsequently imprisoned for twelve years, along with his colleague Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber), both of whom felt a moral obligation to break out of Pretoria prison in order to continue the anti-apartheid movement.  

This film instantly makes you invested in the tense drama. Many of the scenes and events that take place seem absurdly close to the impossible – but this is an unbelievably, ridiculous true story. An insurmountable number of locked prison doors would seem to limit the chances of escape – but apparently not. Tim, who is also known as the “white Mandela” succeeds by replicating 20 odd prison keys out of wood from photographic memory. If this was not a true story, it would be hard to buy the narrative at all. By utter belief in the situation and characters, audiences are fully absorbed into the nail-biting tension. 

Daniel Radcliffe has come far from being The Boy Who Lived. The scar has been replaced with a fringe that covers his forehead, his face  covered by a scraggly beard, round glasses have been replaced with bigger, rounder ones, and his British accent has been replaced with an extremely questionable South African accent (this seems to slide between national twangs as the movie progresses). 

The title ‘Escape from Pretoria’ encapsulates the premise of the film. The majority of the run time is taken up by the escape itself, serving as an accurate retelling of the events that ensued. It doesn’t focus on the brutality that Pretoria is infamous for, rather focusing on the empathy and solidarity between the prisoners. There is one heartbreaking scene when another prisoner Fontaine – who escapes along with Jenkin and Lee – is only allowed to see his son for 30 minutes every year, giving perspective to the wider apartheid struggle. 

If you want to be immersed in a nerve-jangling narrative that doesn’t possess the typical prison Hollywood gimmicks about prison injustice and brutality, this film will definitely have you in awe at the absurd yet selfless actions behind one of the most famous prison breaks of all time. 

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