In less than a decade, Phillip Noyce has gone from making popcorn flicks about bone collecting serial killers to vastly more serious drama. In Rabbit-Proof Fence, he examined the plight of Australian aborigines, and his latest project uses the story of South African oil worker Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) to examine the tyranny of apartheid. But while subject matter may have changed, Noyce hasn't lost his Hollywood touch: Catch A Fire couches its conscience in a gripping thriller narrative.
The story of Chamusso's rebellion is an object lesson in the foundations of guerilla warefare. At first an apolitical family man, dedicated to his job as a refinery foreman and his local childrens' football team, Chamusso is forced to reconsider his life when he is wrongly arrested for terrorism. In custody, Chamusso is interrogated by Nick Vos (Tim Robbins) an investigator whose pleasant demeanour belies the brutal torture he condones. Eventually released to his bewildered family, Chamusso joins the outlawed African National Congress and plots to bomb his former workplace, in effect committing the acts for which he was originally arrested.
"STARK ILLUSTRATION OF AN OPPRESSIVE REGIME"
Is Chamusso a freedom fighter or a terrorist? Can Vos' methods be justified by his desire to protect his own family? It's clear where Noyce's sympathies lie, but he is too canny to paint Chamusso as a flawless hero or Vos as a cackling villain. What we get is a stark illustration of how an oppressive regime sows the seeds of its own destruction. Featuring excllent performances from Luke and Robbins, Catch A Fire is a mature, thought provoking film.
Catch And Release is released in UK cinemas on Friday 23rd March 2007.