While writing about movies, it’s tempting to also write about the way that movie reaches its viewers, especially if we see movies through Netflix. Full disclosure, I’m a low level person who works at a rivaling service. But ‘loyalties’ aside, I hope we get to see movies like Mandlakayise Walter Dube, Jr.’s Silverton Siege. I also want to see more movies from South Africa and the Southern African region. That’s whether we see it through Netflix or somewhere else. Or that people remember this service as one giving Southern African movies a platform. That’s better instead of whatever people think it is now, which is better than the divided opinions about it.
Anyway, my experience with South African cinema is that it’s the same as any country. It has its share of documentaries, crowd pleasers, and arty films. And this movie fits in the second category. It’s an action crime film where its antiheroes and nuanced villains have permutating motivations. The movie’s three antiheroes and Aldo (Stefan Erasmus), Calvin (Thabo Rametsi), and Terra (Noxolo Dlamini). They aim to destroy another power plant to destabilize 1980s Apartheid era South Africa.
Clocking in at 100 minutes, Silverton Siege shows that when a group’s original plan doesn’t work, they improvise. I’m also not sure if I should feel a sense of shock at learning something about this movie. That the events in this movie has a real life version. Anyway, the second power plant siege doesn’t work causing the death of one of their comrades (Vincent Mahlape). So Aldo, Calvin, and Terra escape and find a bank. And they take the clients and tellers there as hostages. Their original demands included a helicopter, but they saw the strings attached with that getaway vehicle.
Instead, they burn certain stashes on the bank’s money. They promise to burn more cash unless the government frees Mandela. Calvin negotiates with some who may have some power to free Mandela. That person is Johan Langerman (Arnold Vosloo). Langerman has to both deal with Calvin and his racist cop coworkers. Calvin, then, has to deal with a cross section of hostages (including Elani Dekker and Shane Wellington). And this cross section adds ambiguous morality to an issue that viewers see as Black and white.
Silverton Siege depicts the real life situation that took seven hours. It shuffles between Calvin and Johan’s conversations both in person and over the phone. Just like any genre films, this one has its share of archetypes. It also fudges with the details of the real life events to get a wider set of demographics even if sticking to the truth is more sufficient. Nonetheless, the casting here is aces, specifically with Rametsi as Calvin.
Most viewers would take Calvin’s side anyway, but his performance drives the point across. The Apartheid was a system that ended when I was six or seven years old. It drove people to do desperate things to get freedom. The cinematography also has the right amount of sepia tone to take us back to that era. It also shows that bitter time in history in a different light. This is half-expected in an genre film like this.
- Release Date: 4/27/2022