Catch a Fire

Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Oct. 27. Rated PG-13. 102 minutes.

The latest from director Phillip Noyce crams together the boom-boom political machinations of his Tom Clancy adaptations (Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games) with the intimate intricacies of his recent return to small-scale stuff (Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American). The studio's selling it as a firebombing thriller, when it's much, much more. And 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 in need of his wisdom and strength. It's the story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a family man who intended no harm till harm was done to him. After the Secunda oil refinery, at which Patrick's a keep-yer-head-down foreman, is partially destroyed, Patrick's arrested, detained, and severely beaten by thugs who work for Security Branch Col. Nic Vos (Tim Robbins), also a family man who considers himself nothing more than a good soldier. As metaphor for the making of martyrs or true-life tale, it's gripping stuff—a big-scale thriller and small-scale heartbreaker about a man pushed too far. ROBERT WILONSKY

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