Catch a Fire

Rated 3.0

In South Africa under apartheid, a black worker who has learned not to make waves (Derek Luke) becomes politicized—and eventually radicalized—by ill-treatment and oppression when he is unjustly suspected of domestic terrorism. Based on the true story of Patrick Chamusso, the movie is efficiently written by Shawn Slovo (at least until the closing minutes, when Slovo leans too heavily on voice-over narration to wrap things up), shrewdly directed by Phillip Noyce, and extremely well-acted, especially by Luke and by Tim Robbins as his chief police persecutor. Yet the movie is never quite as compelling or engrossing as it clearly means to be. For all the expertise on display, it comes off as just another Hollywood celebration of someone else’s courage a long time ago and a long way away.