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Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics What's this?

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6.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 16 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Powerfully telling the story of a South African hero's journey to freedom, Catch a Fire is a political thriller that takes place during the country's turbulent and divided times in the early 1980s, and in the new South Africa of today. (Focus Features)
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. Philip Noyce's anti-apartheid drama is tense and thoughtful, if somewhat marred by Hollywood-style thrills.
  2. 75
    Catch a Fire isn't edgy like some of Noyce's previous titles nor is it a big-budget endeavor with A-list stars. Instead, it's a simple and sincere tale of inspiration.
  3. The movie belongs to Luke, who brings the heroic Chamusso to life as richly as Forest Whitaker does the evil Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."
  4. 67
    It's always odd to see Robbins, a political activist in his own right, playing at villainy, but here he descends into the role so thoroughly that the lopsided smile becomes less a notation of cockeyed boyishness than a treacherous Cheshire smirk.
  5. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    63
    Though preachy at times, Catch a Fire is a well-constructed action thriller elevated by Luke's performance.
  6. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    60
    Stories of resistance to oppression will never become obsolete, but this feels like a picture that should have been made a long time ago.
  7. 50
    The problem with Tim Robbins' dreadful turn as a South African "anti-terrorist" official in Catch A Fire--and it was also a problem with his sniveling Bill Gates impersonation in "Antitrust"--is that he can't hide his distaste for his own character.

See all 32 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. EddyG.
    Oct 23, 2006
    10
    Extremely powerful movie. Excellent.
  2. richardhaber
    Nov 2, 2006
    9
    Powerful and moving. An important historical film.
  3. Aug 11, 2011
    9
    Apartheid movies. I went into this one thinking that if youâ
  4. ChadS.
    Nov 3, 2006
    8
    When Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) reaches ANC headquarters, it'll become crystal clear as to why "Catch a Fire" does the story of apartheid some justice. We meet Joe Slovo (Malcolm Purkey), leader of the South African Communist Party, who easily could've been the male protagonist in another film. Thankfully, the filmmaker didn't Alan Parker this baby, and allowed a black man to tell the story of his own reduction. To make allowance for this box office-killing gambit, unfortunately, there's an action scene that seems phoned in from another movie, seemingly, as some sort of cockamamie compromise to give apartheid some sizzle. If you're going to use bombast, use it to honor the memory of the dead, not some flick starring Harrison Ford in full sweat-mode. When depicting the violence that pervaded apartheid, "Catch a Fire" lacks that one defining moment in which we see and feel the monstrous evil of this government-sanctioned racism. It's okay for Patrick to be a bigamist, and Nic Vos (Tim Robbins) to be a good family man (we want complexity in our characters), but apartheid itself should be painted in broader strokes. It pulls back on the blood, which prevents the audience from a few hours of rabble-rousing after leaving the cineplex. In "Mississippi Burning", the ugliness of slavery becomes all-too-visceral when some klansman kicks a young boy in the face. "Catch a Fire" lacks such a moment. Expand
  5. TimidTimes
    Oct 29, 2006
    7
    A great movie for Tim Robbins to star in and another great movie about the history of Africa. However its no classic like "Cry Freedom" or "Hotel Rwanda". It seems to be looking for the blockbuster getters instead of focusing on the real issues at hand. It's an airbrushed ride through the case of a man. With a PG13 rating and a foggy stardom, it seems only to create havoc for many audience members. But I enjoyed it and I think many people will too. Too bad it flopped in the box office. Expand
  6. JasonE.
    Mar 7, 2007
    6
    Despite its obvious well-meaning humanistic intentions, "Catch a Fire" remains mired in genre trafficking despite its ambitions to convey the power of self-realization. By repeatedly flushing the screen with the hopeful, joyous chantings/dances of the saintly natives he overshadows the smaller personal story of one man's triumphs over his own mild-mannered acquience to the injustices that plague his nation. Robbins adds a stern introspection that adds slight dynamicism to this otherwise didactic tale. Expand

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