Netflix’s Silverton Siege is a thriller film based on true events that took place in Silverton, Pretoria in 1980 South Africa. It chronicles the fateful day when three Anti-Apartheid revolutionaries are forced to take refuge in a bank full of civilians after a sabotage mission gone wrong.
Silverton Siege opens with the three revolutionaries — Calvin Khumalo (Thabo Rametsi), Mbali Terra Mabunda (Noxolo Dlamini) and Aldo Erasmus (Stefan Erasmus) entering the bank and announcing their presence by shooting blanks in the air. They make it clear that it is not a robbery and if everyone complies, they will get to go home safely.
The narrative then switches to one day earlier where a monologue by Calvin reveals that he was born in Mabopane and grew up in Apartheid South Africa. While he explains this, we see the group celebrating after destroying the Rooiwal Power Plant in Silverton, Pretoria.
He also explains that they joined the revolution after the uprising of June 16, 1976 — a peaceful protest by students for the introduction of the Afrikaans language in schools which faced police brutality and left many of their peers dead.
Fast forward to the next day, January 25, 1980 when Calvin, Terra, Aldo and Terra’s partner Masego prepare to attack the Seahorse oil depot and destroy as many fuel tanks as possible. This is part of their mission from higher command that includes sabotaging strategic key points without any civilian casualties.
As they wait for the truck driver — who is supposed to assist them — to arrive, Calvin smells something fishy. He then notices a Black woman smoking in public and clocks that they have been set up. The police force waiting for them kicks into action and a devastating chase takes place.
Masego perishes in the pursuit, so the trio abandons the vehicle and the body, escaping on foot. As Captain Johan Langerman (Arnold Vosloo) and his team corner the them, they enter the only place available, a bank by the name of Volkskas.
The scene then connects with the opening as Calvin, Terra and Aldo take hostages in hopes of escaping while wondering who sold them out. They initially suspect each other but let the thought go due to more pressing matters at hand.
Scanning the bank, they first decide the next course of action and Calvin makes them believe that they will escape. He gets on the phone with Langerman using the bank’s landline and demands a helicopter with an unarmed pilot who will fly them to a location of their choosing.
Furthermore, he also says that among the hostages is an American citizen who will be travelling with them as insurance. He gives the police 20 minutes to fulfil their demands.
Langerman gets the helicopter and informs Calvin, who disguises a Caucasian man as the American (since the American is a dark skinned person) and heads out of the bank with his comrades.
Things seem to be under control before Aldo, sensing danger, refuses to get inside the chopper which turns out to be a lucky move. The pilot, though unarmed, tries to shoot Calvin using a hidden gun but the latter disarms him and they all head back inside the bank (including the wounded pilot).
The hostage situation returns in full swing and Terra tries to get information out of the pilot by shoving his face in the toilet but he mentions he doesn’t know anything. Calvin urges her to cool off.
We then see the arrival of the army, littered with snipers and guard dogs, and led by a ruthless, racist and brutal Brigadier. The man informs Langerman that the female supervisor of the bank, Christine, is the daughter of the country’s Justice Minister and needs to saved.
Meanwhile back in the bank, an interaction with the American boxing promoter gives Calvin the idea to use their position to demand the release of the county’s biggest inspiration against Apartheid, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
He gets on call with Langerman and asks him to come to main door of the bank. There, he demands the release of Mandela with a written pardon signed by the Prime Minister followed by the actual release in front of the public. He also says that the trio will surrender if this happens.
As the hostages ask for food and water, Calvin takes three trolleys and fills them up with all the money and precious stones in the vaults. He then takes the Black American outside on gunpoint and makes him burn one of the trolleys as the authorities contemplate to open fire.
Seeing the media present outside, Calvin uses this opportunity to scream about their demand to release Mandela in front of the cameras, sparking a movement among the people. However, back inside the bank, things start to dismantle.
If you have any doubts about the ending, here’s a complete breakdown.
Silverton Siege ending explained in detail:
Inside the bank, the wounded pilot exclaims that he is bleeding and wants to use the toilet. As Aldo escorts him, a conversation between the two confirms that it was Aldo who was the mole and leaked information about the the Seahorse oil depot mission.
It is also revealed that he did so because the authorities used his pregnant wife as means to blackmail him. Worried that he may reveal the secret, Aldo Stabs the pilot and hurts himself to give the illusion that he acted in self defence.
Meanwhile, the food and water arrive and Calvin agrees to let go two hostages when he comes out to receive them. The police ask for Christine but she refuses, stating that she will stay with the people as it is her duty.
Simultaneously a bank employee tries to get hostile but the trio subdue him. Hearing gun shots, Langerman calls Calvin who in turn reminds him that he has 15 minutes to get him the written pardon for Mandela.
This is when Calvin notices that a hostage — an elitist white woman — is missing. The woman in question sneaks into the vaults and notices the pilot’s dead body. Shocked, she picks up the knife used by Aldo to stab him.
Calvin confronts her and the two have a conversation that hints that woman is not really who she claims to be. However, it seems to calm her down and she returns the knife.
The question about who the mole is still lingers. It is then that Calvin decides to burn the second trolley and this time is accompanied by a priest present among the hostages. As they light it on fire, the priest calls for the authorities to heed the trio’s mission as it is for thier freedom.
Langerman takes advantage of the situation and presents a pardon letter to Calvin. However, he states that in order for them to release Mandela, he needs to enter the bank to check if all hostages are safe. Frustrated, Calvin lets him in. Once inside, Langerman asks Christine to leave but she still refuses.
Terra notices a hidden gun holstered to Langerman’s ankle and orders him to get on his knees. As she points the gun at him, she mentions his name and Calvin is shocked to see that she knows it.
She cries and admits that she heard the name from Aldo way before Langerman entered the bank which makes it clear to everyone of his deception. As Aldo cries and asks for forgiveness, Terra shoots him in the head and lets Langerman out of the bank.
Langerman reports to the Brigadier who is furious that Christine isn’t safe yet. Back in the bank as Calvin and Terra mourn Aldo’s death, Christine comes clean to Calvin that she is the Justice Minister’s daughter.
However, she also mentions that she hates her father and everything she stands for therefore, she will help the revolutionaries. She willingly agrees to step outside the bank as a hostage on gunpoint and makes her support for Mandela’s release, as a white woman, visible to the public.
Unfortunately, while this is happening, a sniper sees the opportunity to gun down Calvin and shoots, The bullet however hits the Justice Minister’s daughter and fatally wounds her.
Calvin carries her back inside and Christine perishes in front of all the hostages, making them realise how cruel their governing bodies are. This seems to be the last straw for the elitist White woman who takes off her blonde wig and reveals herself to be a Black woman with extremely light skin, disguising herself to blend in.
She exclaims that she is tired of pretending and hugs Terra. Meanwhile, as Langerman reprimands the sniper who shot Christine, the Brigadier takes him away and tells him that he did the right thing by shooting her as she supported the revolutionary cause and lets him go.
Calvin tries to collect himself and has a conversation with the woman who hugged Terra. They both share tragic stories about their upbringing and bond over them.
During this exchange, Terra informs Calvin that there is a call for him. It is Langerman who informs him that the Brigadier is sending in the SWAT team and there is nothing he can do about it.
Realising that the hostages could get hurt, he lies to everyone that the call was from the Prime Minister’s office an they have agreed to release Mandela. There is a muted cheer and he also tells them that they are free to go.
As the hostages leave the bank, Terra sees right through Calvin and prepares for their final stand. Meanwhile, Langerman is ordered to relieve his duties for the day by the Brigadier as the SWAT team infiltrates the bank.
Calvin and Terra gun as many men down as they can before retreating into the vaults as they reload their guns, slightly wounded. They laugh about giving their attackers hell and head out to their deaths as the screen cuts to black.
Before the closing credits roll, an information card showcases the images of the actual Silverton trio — Wilfred Madela, Humphrey Makhubu and Stephen Mafoko. It also mentions that they ignited the spark for what would eventually become the “Free Nelson Mandela” campaign.
The final piece of information reveals that Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990 to become the first Black President of the country.