Escape From Pretoria movie spoiler | plot summary | synopsis
Film starts with the voice over of Tim Jenkin ( Daniel ) who explains the status of apartheid in South Africa in 1978. The police were shooting the black protestors like dogs, all democratic opposition was silenced with brut force. While the white people enjoyed their peaceful life with their white only beach, black population was perishing. Two white boys Tim Jenkin and his friend Stephen Lee were the members of African National Congress, which wanted non segregated south Africa.
Jenkin and Lee actively take part in ANC’s work, whose motto was to establish equal rights to all south adricans, black, white and asians. Jenkin proclaims that freedom can’t be begged, it has to be fought. Now he and Lee plants a leaflet bombs across cape town spreading the message of ANC. Shortly after that both were arrested. Jenkin girlfriend Daphne ( Ratidzo Mambo ) hurriedly meets him in police station and gives some money, asks him not to appeal against the jail term. Jenkin proudly states that he will never ask mercy from fascists.
Local judge scolds both of them and says the government of South Africa has given them all the necessary facilities to live a peaceful and prosperous life, instead of using it they are wasting it on terrorist activities. He sentences Tim Jenkin and Stephen Lee to 12 years and 8 years of imprisonment respectively.
Shocked at the judgement Lee tries to flew the court by jumping from the window but he gets caught again. Now both are transferred to central jail for white political criminals at Pretoria. On arrival jail captain Schnepel welcomes them with the taunt that they are the white Mandela, the most disillusioned ones.
Now jail warden Mango instructs them all the rules, no parcel larger than 6”X4”, no sexual activity of any kind, one visiter per month with prior approval, 11 PM lights off, 5 AM morning bell, 7:30 AM morning breakfast. Jenkin observes all the door and their working mechanism, from outside to his cabin. Their were many doors, all had different keys. His and all other prisoners cabin had two lock doors with the same key.
On their first day veteran political prisoner Denis Goldberg, who was sentenced to four life term with Nelson Mandela and Sisulu, introduces himself to Jenkin and Lee. He gives a quick tour of the prison. Jenkin asks him the weak points to break out. Goldberg tells him their are none, all political prisoners there are ‘ prisoners of conscience ‘ they have chosen to complete their term, he suggests them to do the same. Jenkin says he is a prisoner of war and sticks to his plan. Another prisoner Leonard Fontaine secretly tells Jenkin and Lee that, he will support them if they come up with actionable plan. Jenkin gives money to Goldberg for safe keeping.
Jenkin thinks day and night about escaping. He stars with making a sketch of his cabin’s key. With help of paper and pencil he decides that the best way to escape the prison is to make duplicate keys of all doors from his room to outer yard. He shares his idea with Leonard who at first quashes it as stupidest idea but with other choice he supports Jenkin.
Jenkin says in order to make duplicate keys he has to see the key structure thoroughly, keys were always with warden Mango, he use to hang them at his belt. Jenkin observes the key for many days, starts drawing their sstructure on paper at his cabin. It continues for many days.
After observing for many days, Jenkin now starts to make the key in wooden workshop. It was set up to produce goods for general public. After completing it he secretly brings it to his cabin, at night he tries to open his cabin door. To his surprise and disbelief it actually works. He feels accomplished but his feelings lives for short time as cabin had two doors, other one can only be unlocked from outside. He shares this news with Lee and Leonard. They all continue to help him to find the key structure for outer door also. It takes several days.
At this stage Jenkin makes the key for outer door also. The news of his keys is now not a secret, all his fellow prisoners knew it. They also help him. One during the floor cleaning, Jenkin tries to test his key from outside, it works but due to poor quality wood it get stuck in the key hole. He hurriedly removes it but he was not able to turn back the hatch. Morning warden Mango sees the open hatch and thinks that it he might have forgotten yesterday, and ignores it.
Leonard gets a 30 minute visit from his 5 year old son which also was cut short by prison guards with lame excuses.
Leonard was getting agitated and sick with passing days. When all three were discusing on how to open outer door from inside, Lee suggest an idea with cleaning stick. Its length was sufficient for someone to use it through the window adjacent to the door. Jenkin now makes an attachment to the stick which can rotate when used horizontally, converting the linear motion into rotational motion. Jenkin after many try successfully opens the outer door.
He and Lee now hides the bottle of keys for all others. In the meantime Goldberg warns Jenkin to be extra careful in dealing else he will easily get another 25 years. He warns about a sniper who recently got transferred because of killing of kids. He also assures him of all help he can do.
After few days Jenkin makes key for another door. He shares this news with others, they think that its to risky, their are many unknowns. Jenkin now smuggles soaps, cigarettes and other goods with a black janitor who agrees to smuggle civilian cloths in exchange. This goes on for days.
Warden Mango gives new set of glasses to Jenkins, which he asked. Now for many nights Jenkin, Lee and Leonard tries to unlock all the doors in their way, they successfully evades the night guards. One night on a routine visit jail guard sees clusters of sweat drops on floor but fails to find out how it got their.
Due to sleep deprivation one morning Jenkin over sleeps. Captain Schnepel orders through check up of Jenkins cabin, he finds a small wooden prototype of key. On enquiring Jenkins lies it as a stand for his parents photos. Jenkins and others continue their mission every night.
Now all the three have successfully obtained all keys required to escape. They also now have a map which shows direction once they are out. They meet up with Goldberg and his colleges, asks them to join. Goldberg refuse it, he says he is the prisoners of conscience, he will suffer like Mandela and accepts its consequence. Jenkin tries hard but fails.
In the night Jenkin, Lee and Leonard opens door one by one. They change their cloths with the civilian cloths which they have smuggled. Goldberg was also not sleeping, during the night he intentionally breaks his rooms bulb and starts calling the night guard in order to distract him. Ceasing this distraction all three successfully unlocks all doors and escapes the prison. They even evade the psychopath sniper.
After going out the carefully walks across the town, then runs towards the taxi stand. Jenkin hires a black taxi driver, he says white taxis are down the road, Jenkin tells him not to bother about it and offers generous money to take them out of town.
During the morning rounds warden finds out that three have escaped and sets the alarm. Film ends with all three rejoining their freedom in car.
End credits says all three have successfully crossed theborder to Mozambique, from their to Tanzania and then London. Denis Goldberg was released after 22 years in 1985. Police arrested Jenkin’s girlfriend Daphane for nine days, she never saw Jenkin again. Apartheid was over thrown in 1992 and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994.
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