Escape From Pretoria Review: A Perfectly Average Thriller

Escape From Pretoria, starring Daniel Radcliffe, is based on an inspiring true story but doesn't make as much use of its source material as it should.
escape from pretoria review

Escape from Pretoria is based on an autobiographical book by an escapee, Tim Jenkin, called Inside Out: Escape from Pretoria Prison.

It recounts the real-life events involving political prisoners Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber), two white South Africans who were imprisoned after “producing and distributing 18 different pamphlets on behalf of banned organisations” during the apartheid era in South Africa. With the help of other prisoners, they build up a plan to break out of Pretoria Central Prison in 1979.


Escape From Pretoria Doesn’t Branch Out

daniel radcliffe in escape from pretoria

Escape from Pretoria is an perfectly fine escape thriller. If we take a look at the cast, we see there aren’t a lot of actors involved, because the story is only about these three prisoners. Daniel Radcliffe is the standout point of this movie, as well as the only well known actor in this cast. The performances are fine at best, and Daniel Radcliffe tries to carry a lot of this movie on his shoulders through his performance, which was the best of the film to no one’s surprise. But even his performance only stood out in a few scenes. Otherwise, it’s there with the other performances: fine at best.

While looking at the technical aspects of the film, there actually were a few surprises. The lighting and the colours are really great. There really was a great contrast between the scenes in-and outside the prison. Cinematographer Geoffrey Hall did an solid job. There is one really nice camera angle in a keyhole, which really had something to offer for aspiring cinematographers.

The editing is solid, and there are two scenes both in the beginning which stood out in both a bad and good way. One scene in which the protagonist puts something down has way too many hectic cuts. But the opening scene is really nicely edited: after the introduction, which was made in 4:3 aspect ratio, it was nice to look at how the ratio slowly gets bigger until it goes back to normal.

When we take a look at the script, there is nothing quite extraordinary about it. In it’s structure, it’s pretty basic. The fact that the movie is based on true events isn’t an excuse to not write a creative script. There are lots of examples of movies, which are based on a true story that had strong scripts. And the setting really had possibilities; they could have easily made the movie more political, as the politics in the film just disappear after the setup. And the story is about political prisoners, so there really was room for an political subplot or more politics in general. That doesn’t mean that the script is bad – it’s solid, but it could have been better.

Overall the movie had enough scenes that were packed with tension and never lost its pacing. You don’t get bored watching it. The cast and story is fine, the technical aspects are fine, the whole movie is fine. Not bad, not good; just fine. There is definitely an audience for this movie, and it should be enjoyable for a lot of people. But I was hoping for a bit more depth.

The film premieres in theaters on March 6 in the US, with a runtime of 101 minutes. It is rated PG-13 for violence, language and some disturbing material. It is directed by Francis Annan and stars Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, Ian Hart, Mark Leonard Winter, and Nathan Page.

Are you excited for Escape from Pretoria? Let’s discuss everything in the comments down below.


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Finn Schlote

Finn thinks and talks about movies all day, has a strong interest in how movies are made and he loves great cinematography. Comedy or horror, arthouse or big-budget blockbuster, Finn watches everything. He is a passionate Blu-Ray collector and is still waiting for a Jumper (2008) sequel.