Movie Review: Escape From Pretoria starring Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber & Mark Leonard Winter

Source: Signature Entertainment

Escape From Pretoria

Distributors: Signature Entertainment
Production Companies: South Australian Film Corporation, Arclight Films & Particular Crowd
Director: Francis Annan
Producers: Mark Blaney, Jackie Sheppard, David Barron, Michelle Krumm & Gary Hamilton
Scriptwriter: Francis Annan & L.H. Adams
Main Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Webber, Ian Hart & Mark Leonard Winter
Released: 6th March 2020
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Certificate: 12

While it may not be a completely accurate retelling of the events of the real life prison escape, Escape From Pretoria is an effective and incredibly tense jail break movie. Set in the 1970s while apartheid was still strong in South Africa, the film also shows a glimpse of how difficult the time was for people fighting for the segregation to end.


Based on true events, the year is 1979 and in South Africa, Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) are political prisoners put in Pretoria Prison for their anti-apartheid activism. Unwilling to carry out the full length of their sentences, Tim and Stephen, along with fellow political prisoner Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter), start to plot their escape. Their plan? Meticulously recreating keys that will allow them to leave the prison with wood.


Escape From Pretoria executes the prison break movie very well. It excels at creating immersive nail-biting tension. The tense scenes of them trying to carry out their plan had me on the edge of my seat. The film truly excels at displaying the stress and anxiety that trying to break out of a prison must bring. This is mostly due to precise sound design and compelling cinematography. 

This film sounds great. The focus on every tiny bit of sound is frankly breathtaking. From the smallest pin drop to the loud clunks of locks turning. The sound design really immersed me into the world of the film and I suggest you use headphones while watching it for full immersion. The cinematography is also very playful. It is great at highlighting the stress of the more nerve-wracking set-pieces with its tendency of using tight extreme close-ups.

The acting is pretty decent as well. Daniel Radcliffe does a great job at showing the nervous side of his character. However, if I had one criticism of his acting it would be his South African accent could have benefited with a bit more work. His normal British accent would often creep in now and then which I found to be very distracting. Apart from that though the cast do a fine job with the material they are given.

With any film based on true events there is always some form of deviation from the truth to make the film more cinematic and what not. Escape From Pretoria is no different, however, while doing research on the actual events, I do feel like they really missed out on parts that could have added to the film. Especially in the sense that the anti-apartheid activism does feel more like window dressing rather than being a major part of the film. The need to escape to help the fight against apartheid doesn’t feel as present as it could have been. It is there but with nowhere near the same focus as the actual prison break plan. There needed to be more urgency.


Escape From Pretoria is a tense prison-break thriller, which sadly doesn’t go far enough in terms of substance to be the incredible film it could have been. It’s still a brilliant watch and again it really has a firm grasp on how to create a tense atmosphere. I still suggest you watch it regardless. 


Target Audience: 12+
Content: Violence, language and some disturbing material
Recommendation?: Yes

Overall Rating: 7/10 – Respectable

Further Details

For more information about Escape From Pretoria, click here.