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4.2 out of 5 stars27
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Based on the true life story of South African Freedom Fighter, Patrick Chamussa, this film was powerful stuff. There's so much to mention, I don't know where to start.

The basic story is this: Patrick,a young man,worked hard. He had a good job at an oil plant, having worked his way up from the mines,where he started at the age of 15. In his naivety, he believed that if he kept his head down and towed the line he would be rewarded for his hard work and be able to provide a better life for his family, to whom he is devoted. Of course, in the 2-tiered system of apartheid, this was impossible. Having always shied away from politics in an attempt to keep his nose clean, one day he is picked up on suspicion of a terrorist attack, and on his release becomes a freedom fighter; to try and put right the wrongs in his land.

The story is great - if that's the right word. It shows how hate breeds hate, and how the floored system of South African politics, and the way in which they dealt with suspects, simply breed more and more ANC fighters - the very people they were trying to stop. And without getting too political, this perhaps gives us food for thought in our current climate too. As the story unravelled there were, not so much twists and turns, but events that just threw spanners in the works and took the story interesting places - much as in real life... funny that, this being a true story and all.

Visually, the film was a joy... most of the time. Parts of it were hard to watch, but generally the back drop South Africa provided was stunning and made for pleasant viewing. And, interspersed here and there with real life footage of freedom fighters, Mr. Mandela, and along with the bright yellow of the ANC fighters' T-shirts, I found it visually stimulating.

The film was also very stimulating audio wise, with 3 languages spoken throughout: English, Africaans and (I'm guessing here, as it was mentioned in the film) Zulu. It was also a joy to listen to the songs sung by the black people of South Africa. Naturally, songs of freedom, directed towards their white opressors. And as they sung and danced you couldn't helped but be roused by their chants and dancing too.

The film ended with a short narration from the real Patrick Chamussa, who - if we didn't think he was a very special human being after just witnessing all he'd done for others, in his life both before and after he became a freedom fighter - we're left in no doubt about it when we see what he's done since his release from the infamous Robin Island. The prison off the South African coast dedicated to ANC activists, terrorists, or freedom fighters depending on your view point and stance.

Catch a fire is a film that many people will give 5 stars to, I think, purely for the subject matter alone - with films on sensitive subjects, it seems to be almost a Knee-jerk reaction. An almost human response in an attempt to make up for passed wrongs - but that's doing this film a disservice. This film deserves 5 star for many more reasons than that. It deserves 5 stars because it's a great film in itself - true story or not - for all the reasons I've mentioned above.

The fact it is a true story though, can't be ignored, and all we can do is try and take lessons away and learn from it ourselves. The points made about forgiveness by Patrick (and Mandela) at the end are very poignant, and I know I would like to try a live by the words Patrick bestows on us - whether or not I could, do, or will though, is easier said than done. It's the type of enlightenment you can easily spout, yet never really fully understand unless you've been through it yourself. Words that having watched this film carry real weight.

9/10 - The codename bestowed on Patrick when he became a freedom fighter was 'Hot Stuff'... suitably fitting words to describe 'Catch a Fire'.

If you found this review helpful please give it the thumbs up - if not - please comment on why, so I can do a better job for you next time. Thanks :-)
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on 6 February 2008
How did apartheid ever last for as long as it did? Us humans have over history been pretty bad to each other haven't we? This film is a great story of triumph over adversity, hard viewing, at times ,sad but also uplifting. Good acting and overall worth watching.
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on 25 June 2007
No one could have done it better than Phillip Noyce. He is the perfect director for "Catch a Fire," a filmmaker with a knack for creating suspense and tension. The story is based on the actual events of a man's rise against apartheid in South Africa during the early 80's, and Noyce brings the realism, intensity, and emotion needed to effectively portray the conflict. Many filmmakers are using past events or even concocting fictitious scenarios to make sharp political statements with their art. Spielberg used the "Munich" massacre to comment on the continuous and circular nature of terrorism in his most daring and ambitious work. The Wachowski Brothers expressed their feelings about our administration by adapting "V For Vendetta" into an aggressive Bush parable and cautionary tale. Political ideals are showing up in several works, from art films to mainstream Hollywood escapist entertainment.

Instead of using the topic of apartheid in South Africa to preach some grand political message about freedom fighters and terrorists, Noyce keeps things straightforward and lean, examining the emotional conflict of the main character. Because of this, "Catch a Fire" strikes a powerful chord, turning what could of been a routine historical drama into a compelling tale of freedom and revolution.

Patrick Chamusso (Luke) is a simple man living in South Africa, working as a foreman at an oil refinery and raising his children with his beautiful wife, Precious (Bonnie Henna). He spends his time with his family and the soccer team he coaches, paying little to no attention to the political uproar surrounding him. Patrick wants no concerns or problems, just a happy and easy life. This, of course, doesn't last very long. His outlook on politics is changed forever after an explosion at the refinery. Nic Voss (Tim Robbins), a member of an anti-terrorism unit, wrongfully arrests Patrick and eventually his wife, torturing them for answers. The treatment is cruel and unnecessary. Voss releases them once he figures out Patrick is clearly innocent, but the incident is too horrible and evil for Patrick to leave behind. He immediately joins the ANC and trains to become a freedom fighter that will help liberate his people.

It takes some time for "Catch a Fire" to get going, but once Patrick realizes what he has to do, the film becomes a suspenseful account of a man standing up for what he believes. You can't help but become invested in his fight for justice. Noyce directs the last half of the film with urgency, maintaining a humanity and realism of great emotional resonance. Because you're invested in the characters, the political themes are effective. "Catch a Fire" is gripping and moving, one of Phillip Noyce's finest achievements.
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on 7 March 2008
Based on a true story, this South-African set film starring Tim Robbins is a thoughtfully made and thought-provoking look at apartheid, and the human cost. Tim Robbins is well cast and plays with a quiet authority, but the real stars are the other actors, unknown to me but worthy of greater attention. This film shows what can happen in a society under threat when fear, paranoia and bad intelligence get the upper hand (a similar combination and outcome to that portrayed in 'Rendition') and how, at the end of the chain, it is always the innocent who suffer. This film is well worth seeing.
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on 5 September 2010
Found this in the DVD cupboard of my current ship, with Dutch narrative on the back of the box. As it had Tim "Shawshank" Robbins in it and some suitably "bang and whizz" screenshots on the cover I thought I'd stick it in the laptop. Expecting some straight-to-video ham-acted, poorly directed low-rate time-killing tosh I was pleasantly surprised to find a strong, compelling, involved drama based on actual events, with the actual Patrick [central character] taking over the voice-over narrative in the closing minutes. One of the characters, Joe Slovo, who was a leading member of the South African Communist Party and had high-level involvement with the ANC military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, in real life is particularly significant as the movie was written by his daughter Shawn and produced by his daughter Robyn. It was shot entirely on location in RSA, Mozambique and Swaziland. There is also a brief almost cameo-like appearance by Marius Weyers, whom Hollywood buffs will recognise from Blood Diamond (van der Kaap) and Stander (Stander, Snr.).

All in all, this is a movie for all tastes and very engrossing, with much effort made in the detail, right down to credible South African accents (to the untrained ear, at least!) from the American members of the cast. It is a worthy account of apartheid South Africa, where "25 million blacks are ruled by 3 million whites."

Buy it, watch it, love it. Sure as eggs are eggs you'll be wanting to watch it again sometime soon after.
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on 26 February 2014
Based on the true story of Patrick Chamusso, a man from Mozambique who moved to South Africa during Apartheid for better work prospects, decidedly unrebellious, intent on keeping his head down and caring for his family.

Wrongfully accused of terrorism by the minority white government, he then becomes what the ruling whites most feared: terrorists to their terrorist regime.

Moving, hopeful, inspiring. No message of revenge, the film ends with the end of Apartheid, with the return to South Africa of freed prisoners, and with Nelson Mandela's words urging forgiveness.

Perfect acting by adults and children alike. Phillip Noyce directing. Brilliant and unforgettable film. Screenplay by Shawn Slovo whose parents were leaders in the South African Communist Party.
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on 27 February 2012
Another very watchable film, again based on a true story, which is simply told but which ultimately is a poignant reminder of the horrors of apartheid.

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on 4 February 2009
Well worth sitting down to watch this. Much along the Biko line. The consequences of a brutal police and mistaken suspect. Isn't it always the case that such appalling circumstances make for gripping stories. Actually this film is based on fact and is all the more chilling for it.
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on 24 March 2015
Wonderful film and a terrific story of apartheid South Africa.... and a great post script story in that Patrick Chamusso now runs 'Two Sister Orphanage' near White River in South Africa looking after 250 orphans with the help of the community
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on 28 March 2015
Good background into the daily apartheid struggle. Meant so much as recently met Patrick Chamuso - he is doing an incredible job running The Two Sisters orphanage near White River SA. Look it up and help !
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