The time of the Apartheid in South Africa, was, without a doubt, one of the most terrible periods for human decency in all history. Racism as always excited, but the rules the Apartheid imposed over decent South African citizens were on another level. There hasn’t been since then another low period where racism has caused harm to so many people. Silverton Siege, the new Netflix film, is here to remind us what it was like.
The film is based on a real bank siege that occurred in 1980 in Pretoria, South Africa. Of course, the move takes some creative licenses to deliver the message they want to deliver. However, even with these differences from the real life event, the film maintains itself as a solid period drama that shows just how hard it is to fight for one’s freedom in a world of tyrants.
Silverton Siege is directed by Mandlakayise Walter Dube Jr. and stars Thabo Rametsi, Noxolo Dlamini, Stefan Erasmus, Elani Dekker, and Arnold Vosloo. The film recreates the siege to the bank that occurred in Pretoria, in 1980. And tells the story of Calvin, a young freedom fighter and his team of revolutionaries as they tried to turn a bad situation in their favor by demanding the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.
Making films based on real events is always a very difficult thing to do. The filmmakers are basically drawing a target on their backs, and the critics just follow the call. Historical inaccuracies, false presentation of the events, and many other faults come forward and reviews and comments online. Sometimes, those details really matter. Especially, if the movie is presenting itself as historically accurate or makes it a sign of pride during its media campaign, then, of course, it seems fair for the filmmakers to be called out if they don’t deliver.
Thankfully, Silverton Edge is not interested in being historically accurate, and only uses the historical backdrop to focus on the message the movie is trying to share with audiences. A message of freedom, revolt, resistance, and compassion. On that level, the movie delivers in spades, by making the message very clear to understand. You will not be scratching your head thinking about what is happening or what it all means.
This clearness in the message is a double edge sword, because while it makes the movie easy to understand, it also makes the movie feel a bit too convenient in its discourse. Some plot points might feel a bit forced, and they show the writer’s hand too much. This sensation of manipulation might turn some people off.
Nevertheless, the movie manages to present a series of situations and characters that offer a very good picture of how it was to live during the Apartheid. It shows how much people were willing to sacrifice themselves for their freedom, and the freedom of others.
The movie starts with a very solid action sequence that shows that Dube might be ready to graduate to some bigger projects in the future. It would have been nice to see an action sequence with a lot more panache, or a bit more technical prowess, but the scene still works well enough to launch audiences to the setting and characters. It makes for that first act to be very exciting. Sadly, the movie never returns to this level of spectacle.
The second and third act are mostly dedicated to the drama that takes apart the people inside the bank, just like it is taking apart the people of South Africa. The drama is compelling, but it is really elevated by what the actors perform on the scenes. For example, Rametsi serves as the main character of the piece, Calvin, a young man that will fight no matter what to get the freedom his people deserve. The actor delivers a great performance, full of passion, tragedy, and lots of charisma.
Dlamini also comes to mind when talking about the actors. She plays Terra, one more of the freedom fighters, and just like Rametsi before her, her character manages to become quite interesting as the movie progresses. The actress has a couple of powerful scenes that are quite impressive. These two actors should be on everyone’s casting calls from here on out.
The rest of the cast does well. We even have the presence of The Mummy himself, Arnold Vosloo, who plays the officer Langerman. Dekker also makes a great impression in a role that could be thankless, but she manages to pull out some strings towards the end. Without a doubt, the actors, and their performances, are the best thing about the movie.
Visually, the film doesn’t really do anything groundbreaking. It actually chooses a gritty and washout look to make things feel more real than they actually are. For those who have seen a lot of movies, this filter that is used over the image can feel a bit overdone at this point. Would anyone finally be able to make a movie that wants to be real, but looks real as well? It is a tough decision, but at least for now the hyperreality that this and other movies sell has to be enough.
Silverton Siege is one of the best movies that Netflix has released in the past month. The service is having a bad time, losing a lot of subscribers, and the quality of the content seems to be one of the main reasons for subscribers leaving the platform. Silverton Siege feels like it should be the standard of what a good streaming movie should be. It is strange that now in Netflix’s landscape, it feels more like an exception.