Metascore
62

Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic 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. Both a condemnation of torture as a political tool and a tribute to the bravery that exists within everyone.
  3. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    80
    Luke has real movie-star power. He's enormously sympathetic, but this moving, well-crafted movie, written by Shawn Slovo, mercifully doesn't turn him into a plaster saint.
  4. 75
    Screenwriter Shawn Slovo -- whose white parents were anti-apartheid activists in South Africa -- ends his finely tuned screenplay on a note not of violence and anger but of forgiveness. It's a breathtaking coda that reminds us of that undeniable human beauty: the ability to survive, to fight for right -- and then move peacefully on.
  5. 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."
  6. 75
    Luke, who seems to have been marking time since his impressive debut in the title role of Denzel Washington's "Antwone Fisher" four years ago, is fiercely good as this reluctant warrior and devoted family man.
  7. Luke, who had the title role in Denzel Washington's directorial debut, "Antwone Fisher," is that rare actor who can convey profound inner conflict with just a look in his eye; his performance is attuned, astute and remarkable.
  8. This deeply moving and disturbing film derives power from being based on the true story of a black South African who does everything possible, no matter how degrading, to get by within an immoral system, but becomes radicalized almost despite himself.
  9. 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.
  10. Reviewed by: Ethan Alter
    75
    Right off the bat, Catch a Fire distinguishes itself from other recent international productions about Africa (including The Constant Gardener and The Last King of Scotland) in that it is actually told from an African perspective.
  11. Catch a Fire paints the period with a double-sided brush that gives yesterday its due and puts today on notice.
  12. Fire shows what happens when a government systematically denies rights to one racial group for decades, but its message is more current.
  13. With the same affinity for stories of culture clash he showed in "The Quiet American" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence," director Phillip Noyce embraces the tale with gusto.
  14. Reviewed by: John DeFore
    70
    Comparisons to "Hotel Rwanda" make sense up to a point - both feature heroes who have the scales removed from their eyes - but "Fire" is no tearjerker, and here the story of Chamusso's conversion serves mainly as prologue to the main plot, a history-tinted cat-and-mouse policier in which he will attempt to finish the job he was wrongly accused of starting.
  15. The young American actor (Derek Luke) gives such an intense, passionate performance as South African Patrick Chamusso that he just about dares you not to be involved with the tale he is telling.
  16. Reviewed by: Joanne Kaufman
    70
    An affecting story of punishment and crime, of betrayal and redemption marred by preachiness and a treacly ending, Catch a Fire is notable for its refusal to see things in terms of black and white.
  17. 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.
  18. 67
    Whatever you make of the film's politics, Luke makes a vivid impression in his most substantial role since "Antwone Fisher," and Robbins resists the temptation to make the thinly written Vos a villainous caricature.
  19. The movie is flawed and doesn't completely come off as a convincing biography, but its heart is in the right place, it has moments of poignancy and power, and it makes a pleasant change of pace for a genre that essentially has become a cry of despair.
  20. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    63
    Luke gives a powerful performance -- with his looks and talent, he should be a much bigger star -- but Robbins is the one you'll remember. Fixed with the faraway look of a doomed man who knows the center cannot hold, he gazes fearfully toward a future he knows is coming and can do nothing to stop.
  21. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    63
    Though preachy at times, Catch a Fire is a well-constructed action thriller elevated by Luke's performance.
  22. 63
    In Catch a Fire Noyce has caught the holy spirit. The movie is a thriller that wants to lift you up.
  23. Reviewed by: Helen O'Hara
    60
    An intelligent thriller that effectively conveys the message that terrorism, even in apartheid-era South Africa, is rarely a black-and-white issue.
  24. 60
    The less rosy message of Catch a Fire is that aggression breeds aggression.
  25. 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.
  26. Reviewed by: Jessica Reaves
    50
    The horrors of apartheid deserve a better treatment than this.
  27. 50
    Catch a Fire just doesn't spark.
  28. Reviewed by: Robert Wilonsky
    50
    In the end, Catch a Fire plays like some weird hybrid on the crazy-quilt filmography of Phillip Noyce, which includes small productions made in his native Australia and the Sharon Stone sexcapade "Sliver." What it's definitely not is the standard-issue movie about apartheid; there's no white protagonist, no pale-faced hero riding in on his high horse to save the oppressed black man.
  29. It’s a film that wants to play as if it were ripped from today’s headlines, but has been shredded into near incoherence.
  30. Director Phillip Noyce has made a serious movie that switches to almost popcorn entertainment.
  31. The film never strays much beyond the obvious, despite a conscientious effort by Tim Robbins to humanize a white security officer.
  32. 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.
User Score
6.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 16 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. Aug 11, 2011
    9
    Apartheid movies. I went into this one thinking that if youâ
  2. 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 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. Full Review »
  3. 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 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. Full Review »