6.7/10
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60 user 107 critic

Catch a Fire (2006)

A drama about terrorism in Apartheid-era South Africa, revolving around a policeman and a young man who carries out solo attacks against the regime.

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2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Mncedisi Shabangu ...
Zuko September
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Obadi (as Tumisho K. Masha)
Sithembiso Khumalo ...
Sixpence
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Miriam
Michele Burgers ...
Anna Vos
Mpho Lovinga ...
Johnny Piliso
Mxo ...
Pete My Baby
Jay Anstey ...
Katie Vos (as Jessica Anstey)
Charlotte Savage ...
Marie Vos
Nomhle Nkonyeni ...
Mama Dorothy
Michael Mabizela ...
Shaven Head Bomber
Eduan van Jaarsveldt ...
Special Branch Sergeant (as Eduan van Jaarsveld)
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Storyline

A political thriller: the real-life story of a South African hero's journey to freedom. In the country's turbulent and divided times in the 1980s, Patrick Chamusso is an oil refinery foreman and soccer coach who is apolitical - until he and his wife Precious are jailed. Patrick is stunned into action against the country's oppressive reigning system, even as police Colonel Nic Vos further insinuates himself into the Chamussos' lives. Written by Focus Features

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This Fall stand for something See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving torture and abuse, violence and brief language | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

27 October 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Catch a Fire  »

Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$2,026,997 (USA) (27 October 2006)

Gross:

$4,291,965 (USA) (17 November 2006)
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Technical Specs

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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Robyn Slovo, who is Shawn Slovo's sister, acts as her own mother, Ruth First, in the film. See more »

Quotes

Patrick Chamusso: My children, when they speak if their father, they will say he was a man who stood up for what was right, a man who said he must do something now. What will your children say about you?
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Connections

Referenced in Tavis Smiley: Episode dated 26 October 2006 (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Hot Stuff
Written by Pete Bellotte, Harold Faltermeyer (as Harold Faltermeier), Keith Forsey
Performed by Zamajobe Sithole (as Zamajobe)
Courtesy of Sony BMG Music Entertainment
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User Reviews

 
Great film-making
25 November 2006 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

With Rabbit Proof Fence, The Quiet American and now Catch A Fire to his credit in succession, Phillip Noyce appears to be leaving the blockbuster action movies behind and moving into the realm of serious but still mainstream cinema. These are all very proficient films with interesting stories that contain relevant social and political messages. It is noteworthy that the three are all based on historical facts.

This style of film-making is much more interesting than films like Syriana or (especially) The Constant Gardener. In those, the director appears to make a show of promoting a worthy world view, but doesn't really seem committed to the political cause. It felt gratuitous, the director simply exploiting our interest in political conspiracies without necessarily sharing that interest. Whatever it takes to get bums on seats.

It is a difficult balance for a director. You want to do a story that you know is going to be hard to sell. So you need a big name or two to get the studio on board. But then you're stuck with a highly recognisable face that everyone knows is American but has to use an Afrikaaner accent.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Tim Robbins was completely believable as the South African police interrogator. His accent seemed flawless, and with his excellent acting I was able to buy-in to his character immediately. And I assumed that Derek Luke, who played the protagonist Patrick Chamusso, was African. In fact, he's from LA and has appeared in Spartan and Antwone Fisher (in the title role).

Apartheid, like say Nazism or so-called terrorism, is an easy target. It doesn't take much effort to totally demonise even minor participants, even though they may be ordinary people. Noyce skilfully avoided such caricatures. Using effective cinematic devices, he was able to portray that both the protagonist and the antagonist had much in common. They both had two daughters, and both loved their families and their country. But one became a torturer and one became the tortured.

Noyce's portrayal of Apartheid was very balanced. Robbin's character Vos was a family man with a job. His family loved him, but at work he was a man to be feared. Torture is a method that has been shown to not work. Both Michael Winterbottom's The Road to Guantanamo and Noyce's Catch A Fire illustrate this by depicting false confessions that were actually made by innocents. According to Noyce at the Q&A session that proceeded the film, the confessions made by Chamusso after he joined the ANC were deliberately sparse on detail and designed to appease but ultimately frustrate his interrogators.

I asked Noyce if the film was making a statement about current world events, and he acknowledged that it was. It is very relevant to the war on terror and the West's turning to inhumane methods. "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", he quoted. Patrick Chamusso was a hero, he said, not because he took up arms, but because he renounced them. The ANC had a policy of not harming innocents, but this wasn't always the case. Chamusso was unsuccessful (and was jailed), because he was careful to follow this policy.

Phillip Noyce is showing himself to be a deft master of quietly subversive films with commercial appeal, but ultimately they are socio-political commentaries with a strong humanitarian element. This film should have wide appeal among both casual movie-goers and the more serious cinephiles.


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