Silverton Siege review: Engrossing thriller that fails to stick the landing

Netflix’s Silverton Siege is a hostage thriller film based on a sensational true incident that took place in Silverton, Pretoria in 1980 South Africa. It depicts the tale of three Anti-Apartheid revolutionaries who are forced to hide in a bank full of civilians after a mission gone wrong.

Story

Silverton Siege encapsulates the journey of three revolutionaries — Calvin Khumalo (Thabo Rametsi),  Mbali Terra Mabunda (Noxolo Dlamini) and Aldo Erasmus (Stefan Erasmus) as they enter a bank after a mission to sabotage the Seahorse oil depot in Pretoria, South Africa goes wrong.

It turns out to be a setup and a chase ensues that forces them to get cornered. Having no choice but to enter the only building behind them, they rush into the bank and announce their presence. Calvin mentions that it isn’t a robbery and everyone will be allowed to leave if they comply.

What follows is Captain Johan Langerman (Arnold Vosloo) and his team’s attempts to communicate with the trio to ensure civilian safety while the three interact with their hostages as they try to figure out who is the one who betrayed them.

Meanwhile, realising that they have no way out but imprisonment or death, Calvin uses their position and the media’s attention to demand Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

Performances

Thabo Rametsi, Noxolo Dlamini and Stefan Erasmus are the backbone of this film. Their chemistry is unparalleled and their action chops are second to none.

Rametsi as the leader is especially stellar in his portrayal. His ruthless aggression while putting forward his demands and still being able to bring out his tortured past is a sight to behold. The trio manages to formulate the perfect balance between their desperation to survive and their determination for the mission.

Arnold Vosloo as Captain Langerman is a great addition to the cast. His presence is that of a logical and reasonable man stuck on the other side of the law, a part which he aces. His character doesn’t necessarily hate the trio’s agenda but is forced to act against them owing to his duty.

The supporting cast featuring the likes of Tumisho Masha, Michelle Mosalakae, Elani Dekker, and Shane Wellington, among others, add the right amount of flavour in this concoction.

Positives

Silverton Siege builds an intense atmosphere around the hostage situation that was riddled with tension and was dire for everyone involved due to the lack of sufficient food and water.

The director, Mandla Dube, does well to explore varied sides of the story. Via the revolutionaries, the hostages and the Police, he shows multiple perspectives of the siege that lasted nearly 30 hours.

The gun battles, explosions and other action sequences are well shot. The brilliant sound design adds another dimension to the film and aids the immersion.

The main characters are extremely humane and have captivating backstories that help to not represent them as basic terrorists but oppressed human beings fighting for the cause of equality and freedom.

Negatives

The film had a lot of potential to represent the movement — which is a critical part of African history — that this siege was a part of. It is lightly touched upon but the narrative mainly focuses on the hostage situation and not the bigger picture.

The plot works on the assumption that the audience is mostly aware of the events that took place in the country during that time, however, it is safe to assume that such is not the case. There is a definite underutilisation of content here.

Furthermore, the narrative takes a lot of liberties with developments to add to the drama. Plot points including one of the revolutionaries being a mole, a Black woman suffering from albinism using her condition to pass off as White, the supervisor of the bank being the Justice Minister’s daughter, and more feel too cliched and enforced.

Due to this, some of the intended shocking moments do not land. For instance, bank supervisor Christine’s death feels like a forced necessity used to drive the point of White ruthlessness home.

Verdict

Silverton Siege is a nice insight into this very important factual event that occurred in 1980, however, it does little to inform its audience about the facts behind it. The film is action packed, gripping and entertaining, yet, leaves something to be desired in the end.

Rating: 2.5/5


Also Read: Silverton Siege summary and ending explained

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