It’s not a bold statement to say that being in prison is possibly one of the worst experiences a human being can endure. Hence the grand fascination with the horrible place most will likely never go, and the proliferation of life-in-prison movies and T.V. shows, from Dead Man Walking to Orange Is The New Black. What we don’t see too often, however, is a successful escape from the hell that is prison. At least not a successful one, let alone one based on a true story sorry Shawshank Redemption). Escape From Pretoria, Francis Annan’s latest thriller, tells the tale of one of the most legendary prison escapes in the world.
Daniel Radcliffe and Daniel Webber play Timothy Jenkin and Stephen Lee, respectively. The two are young South African men in the ’70s who oppose apartheid and the powers that be, in addition to being members of the African National Congress (ANC), which was considered a terrorist organization at the time. They’re mass-producing ANC pamphlets and decide to take it a step further by setting up a series of bomb-like devices that spray them out into the street like confetti. The two end up getting arrested and going to the white men’s prison, Pretoria.
“…immediately decides that it will be a great act of political rebellion for the ANC if they were to escape from the prison.”
Jenkin almost immediately decides that it will be a great act of political rebellion for the ANC if they were to escape from the prison. Lee is somewhat reluctant but agrees. They meet another prisoner, Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter), a French fighter for the ANC resistance, who is gung ho about escaping as well. He sees his son once a year and wants to be with him and his wife again. They also meet Denis Goldberg (Ian Hart), a prisoner who is 15 years into three life sentences, who does not want to escape. He believes it’s a better show of solidarity to the rest of the people who are in prison or were victims of apartheid.
Over the course of a year, Jenkin, Lee, and Fontaine work together to find a way to escape. It is Jenkin who has an incredibly brilliant idea to fashion keys out of wood in the workshop that should work the same as the iron keys the guards use. After hundreds of days of looking at the keys, he commits their shape to memory and successfully makes replicas for all nineteen doors that lead to the main gate of the prison. Eventually, the day comes when Jenkin, Lee, and Fontaine try their escape, and by some miracle, it works.
"…it's important for people to learn this piece of history..."