DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Catch a Fire - DVD Review


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</script></div>{/googleAds}Australian filmmaker Phillip Noyce, who explored the injustices of Australia's Aboriginal Assimilationist policies in 2002's Rabbit-Proof Fence and America's pre-communist Viet Nam involvement in The Quiet American, stays in his wheelhouse with Catch a Fire, the story of a South African hero's journey to freedom during that country's ruthless system of Apartheid.

Catch a Fire is a straightforward telling of the complex but true story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), an apolitical factory supervisor who eventually joins the African National Congress in its fight against the country's racist form of government. Also at the story's center is Nic Vos (Tim Robbins), a colonel in the country's Police Security Branch whose job it is to hunt down and persecute with unbridled malice, those who mean harm to the government. When wrongly accused of involvement in a bombing plot at the plant where he works, Patrick undergoes a sort of social awakening that transforms him from a mild-mannered family man content with the status quo, into a cold vengeful soul intent on seeking retaliation.

Although Patrick's story takes place in the early 1980s, parallels to today's political climate can't be ignored. We're challenged with the notion that one man's terrorist plot is another man's path to becoming a National hero. Does striking out against what one believes to be corruption and injustice make one a terrorist? As controversial as it may seem, once you've witnessed the torture and degradation Patrick and his family experience at the hands of his own government - you realize the answer is no.

Noyce's vision is brought to life by Shawn Slovo's brisk script and stellar performances - namely from the two leads Luke and Robbins. Luke is challenged with convincing us of his character's transformation. Patrick is a flawed man who becomes an unlikely hero. He represents the everyman in each of us and shows us how even an ordinary, law-abiding citizen can become embroiled in political conflict. A performance any less convincing might have spelled doom for the film, as we're asked to believe in a 180-degree transformation. Luke nails it and we believe it.

As an officer in the South African government's security force, Nic Vos is fighting to protect a comfortable way of life. But at the same time he's smart enough to realize that if the ANC (backed by millions of oppressed citizens) takes power, his country will be destroyed. Robbins plays the contradiction perfectly. Done incorrectly, Vos would have come across as a cold, sadistic animal like a character in a horror film. But instead, he's smart, crafty and even somewhat approachable. Robbins gives his character just enough self-doubt to make us realize he really is a human being with feelings. We get a sense that Vos understands the ultimate destiny of his country.

Catch a Fire's only shortcoming might be its lack of a broader scope. The plight of South Africa is relatively distant and mostly unknown to many viewers, so a bit of time spent on the country's background might have been valuable in setting a more extensive context. But powerful scenes of Nelson Mandela being welcomed home from exile at the film's end pound home the story's relevance and even garnered cheers from the theater audience as well. We're left with the brutal realization that what we call terrorists are not born into a mission of fulfillment. But rather, they learn to counter their uncomfortable surroundings.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Feauture-length Audio Commentary - Featuring Noyce, Chamusso, Luke, Robbins, Henna, Shawn Slovo and producer Robyn Slovo (and sister of screenwriter Shawn)
* Deleted Scenes - 02:16 minutes of extended and deleted scenes.

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging

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