Escape from Pretoria (2020) - full transcript

Based on the real-life prison break of two political captives, Escape From Pretoria is a race-against-time thriller set in the tumultuous apartheid days of South Africa.

By the time
Stephen and I graduated in '73,

half of South Africa
was in flames.

The police were shooting
black kids like rabbits

whilst the other half
sipped piña coladas

on their whites-only beaches.

Growing up under apartheid

meant the segregation of people
by the colour of their skin.

And as our eyes opened,

the naked reality of apartheid
stood before us.

I was born like this!

I'm not ashamed to be a Saffer.
Ask in the eyes of God!

What we'd always accepted,
we would now reject.

We didn't want a life
built on lies and indifference.

We wanted to join
the ongoing struggle

for a democratic and free
South Africa

not based on
racial discrimination.

But unless we got up
from our privileged white lives

and did something,
our words were meaningless.

What we chose to do was
the most radical of all things

and without doubt
the most explosive.

We joined the prohibited
African National Congress...

..and ran
anti-apartheid missions

alongside our black and Asian
brothers and sisters,

spreading the news that freedom
and equality for all races

should be fought for
at all costs.

- Let's go!
- Aren't we going to watch?

No, Stephen, we don't
have time for this, OK?

Let's just...

They're closing in on us.

Hey, you!
Stay where you are!

And the costs were greater
than either of us imagined.

I've got you the money. Don't
let them catch you with it.

They will add another 12 years
to your life.

- Make sure you don't appeal.
- I won't.

I'm not begging
some fascist bastard judge

to come take pity on us.

Give it to me.

Whatever happens in there,
don't give up.

I won't.

Go, go, go. I love you.


All rise.

The Republic of South Africa v.
Timothy Jenkin and Stephen Lee.

My commendation
to the prosecution.

A very well put case.

The retrieval of
17 custom-built devices

for 26 separate bombings
is no small thing.

But laying out
the most pernicious aspects

of this ANC ideology...

..that all races are equal
and all this sort of thing

has been the strongest part
of your case.

And if I'm to understand it

one of the defendants' fathers
is an eminent pharmacologist

and the other a scholar
in the humanities.

This country raised you.

It gave birth to you

and it provided
all your worldly needs.

And this is how
you choose to repay it?

The State of South Africa
now tells you

the price you will pay
in return.

And so,

defendant number one and chief
bomb maker, Timothy Jenkin,

you are sentenced
to imprisonment

for a total of 12 years.

And defendant number two,
the accomplice, Stephen Lee,

you are sentenced
to imprisonment

for a total of eight years.

Sentences are to commence

at Pretoria Political Prison
for White Males.

So... that's that.

All rise.

Sit there!

Shit! Don't shoot! Don't shoot!

Let's talk about this,
man, alright?

Let's talk. Let me esca...

Keep your mouth shut in there!


- How's it?
- How's it?

At last, the leaflet
bombers are here, hmm?

And after all your fancy tricks,

you're reduced to jumping
from windows like rats, huh?


No-one forced you to traitor
your country and your race!

You are the white Mandela.

You are the most deluded
of them all.

Van der Merwe!

Read it!

"No pens, no radio,
no newspapers.

"No political conversation.

"No parcels larger than
the size of a 6" x 4" envelope.

"Visitors once per month,
subject to state vetting.

"And there is to be
no sexual activity of any kind

"anywhere on the premises."

Here! Step on the line.

Step over the line.

Disengage the grille door.


Up to the line.



Come on, move!






Alright, pube lice!

Lights out 11:00,
morning bell 5:00,

breakfast 7:30.

I like my cells
clean as a plate.

Remember that and you'll live
a long and prosperous life.

Now... total silence!

Step away from the grille.

Best bloody kip in years.

I could get used to this.

Fall out!


Go. Walk. Walk!

Alright, guys,
move along. Move along.

Alright, quieten down.
Let's keep it down, guys.

Walk. Walk.

Go on.


Thank you.

Don't sit there.

We are segregated, my friend.

They wear blue shirts
for a reason.

Unless you want to sit
next to a murderer.

No. This is... this is good.


Alright, quiet down, huh?

What was that?

Can I join you, gentlemen?

- Can I...?
- Please.

We've heard about you two.

- We've heard about you.
- Yeah. It's... it's an honour.

How many years?

Eight for me. 12 for him.

Ja, but we don't plan
on staying that long.

Hold on to that anger.

It reminds you there's
another world outside all this.

Nobody said stop. Move!

Calm down, now.

Oh, dear. Oh, dear.

Ladies, we're going to call
this one Potluck.

One for each slop, my friend.

Damned bastards!

Come on. Get it over there.

Good boy.

Something's weighing you down,
I think.

Are you packing?

You can tell by the way you run
you've got at least

a bottle of beer
and some glasses up there.

Cigar tubes. 360 rand.

Expensive tastes.

Let me give you the guided tour.

In case you're wondering,
it's 20 foot high.

The barbed wire's flailed so
it traps right under your skin.

On from sundown to sunrise.

Covers every inch of the yard.

Boers with guns
from lockup till dawn.

There's nothing they'd like more
than to pump holes into you.

And tunnels in any direction,

they just lead you back
onto prison property.

Apart from that wall.
It lines a public street.

I knew a chap one time.

No matter how hard he tried,
he couldn't get his money out.

And the whole thing
got infected.

The point I'm making is,
everybody comes in here going

they're gonna break out of here
by next week.

We are prisoners of conscience.

So it's different for us.

But we're prisoners of war.

All the same,
I've got a hiding place.

I'll keep it safe for you.

Get it out before
it rots you inside.

He pours cold water on
any poor bastard with a plan.

I don't talk to him.

So there have been attempts?

Some go a little...

..some a little more,
but no-one go out.

Always a first time.

That's my thoughts exactly.

It is a duty for us.

I don't do this "prisoner
of conscience" bullshit.

If you're having a plan,
I join you.


The cell is a concrete tomb.

Only way out is
through the grille.

You tell me when
you have something.

Back to your cells!

Every prison has its doyen,

and for us politicals
it was Denis Goldberg.

He'd been given
four life sentences

for trying to overthrow
the apartheid government

by violent revolution... the same trial
as Mandela and Sisulu.

He was royalty.

For many nights, I sat on
my bed and stared at the lock.

I tried a hundred ideas
in my mind...

..and then I tried
a hundred more.

It sat there staring back at me
every single night.

And then it dawned on me.

You don't have to know

You only have to know enough.

Now, quiet!

You start with what you know
and you work backwards.

Hey. We've got something.

We're not doing anything
that involves digging.

No. We make keys.


Wait, wait. Listen.

I measured the lock with
a pencil and drawing paper...

You want to make a key with
pencil and drawing paper?

No, no. From wood.

Oh. You crazy. It break.

It won't break
if you go against the grain.

There's a reason
keys are made out of metal.

I thought there was a first
for everything.


Where you get the wood from?

- From the workshop.
- Heads up. Heads up.

Three minutes.

Move along, you guys.


Look at the keys
when he comes over.

Watch closely.

No, no, no!
You have lost your mind!

What are you talking about?!

- What is this?
- Oh, nothing, meneer.

No fighting.
We're just talking.

Not much peace and harmony

among you white Mandelas, huh?

No, no.

Kaffir work.

You're both confined
to your cell. Now!

It's ridiculous.

Are you guys
gonna clean it up?

Mongo here's gonna
look after you, eh?

He didn't do anything.

You want to play with him? Ja?

Then play still!

Potluck! Get your black,
fat arse here now!


Alright, guys,
move along.

Quiet! Quieten down!

Be quiet!

You clean that up!

Next! Move it along!

Next in line!

OK, next prisoner!
Come on, move it!

OK, next!

Clear down!

Oh, shit!

What an idiot.


Just Lee.

Everybody else clear down.

File in!


You know, your look
is very intense, Jenkin.


"Sorry, MENEER."

Sorry, meneer.


So all we have to do
is make a really complex key...

Silence. make a really complex key,

then get it to reach a keyhole
on the other side

of a steel-panel,
three-inch-thick iron door

to which we have
totally no access?

Total crazy.

I love it.

Ah, yes!

Yes, yes!


No, no! No!

Tim. Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim!

Somebody's coming. Quick!

No, no. Come on, come out.
Come out. Get out.

Tim! Tim!

Come on!

I punched a boy at school.


Because he called me a bastard

and he said I don't have a Papa...

but that's not true.

I'm sorry.

What have I done?

Are you angry with me Papa?

Non. Non.

I'm not angry at all.

This is my best day

in the whole year...

seeing you.

Mum says when they let you go,

I'm going to have a beard
and be 23 years old.

Is that true?

I promise you...

I won't be here much longer.

Back off!

What's the matter with you?
You are scaring him!

Play still and lean away,
or I cut the children.

What is wrong with you people?!

OK. This session is terminated.
Get the woman in here.

OK. OK, I'm s... I'm sorry.

Get him out of here.
This session's over.

Come Antoine!

Please. This is less than
30 minutes. Please. Please.

- No, please! Please!
- Allez, viens, Antoine. Vite.

What's happening with her visa?

They rejected it again.
We're going to appeal.

- Finished! It's finished!
- Is she well?

Is she well? How is she?

She wishes you "happy fifth wedding anniversary".

Enough of this French shit.
Get out! Now! Out!

She's moving to Bordeaux.

I'm sorry.

- Papa!
- I'm sorry, Leonard.

- Papa!
- Stop shouting.

Papa! Papa!

Get your...! Hey! Hey!

17. Go!

15 seconds.

How, uh... how is your son?

OK. Let's go again.


- He had a bad visit.
- Ja, I heard.

And you?
How is your father doing?

I don't know.

He's sick.

We need
to get out of here.

I think I have an idea.

Antoine, he made me a kite.

It has a small spindle
of fine black thread on it.

I can tie the key at both ends,
put it across.

Et voilà.

I liked the pulley idea.


- No.
- What?

If you can't turn it,
it's... just totally pointless.

Totally pointless?


Well, what can take us
from this to this?

That we have access to
from inside the cell.


You see, that's why
the string is smart.

We can keep it here
and they'll never work out...

Afternoon, meneer.

What were you talking about?

Nothing, meneer.
We were just talking.

- Yeah.
- Sweeping, yeah?

Clean cell, clean heart, meneer.


- OK, he's gone.
- How long was he there for?

Did he hear us?
Did he hear anything?

We weren't saying
anything incriminating.

OK. OK, if he ask
question of us,

we were just talking about...
we talk about string, huh?

For how we hang up the broom.
Huh? That's it.

- We forget everything else.
- Wait, wait, wait.

Oh, yeah, yeah. Give it to me.


Oh, yes.



You get it?

- Not quite.
- Any more?

Oh, no.






I have not slept all night.

But you did it?

- Mm-hm. Both doors.
- Really?

You actually opened...
both the doors?

Ja. I actually did.

Très bien.


Nice work.

Hey, we're not going to be able
to see it flower.

That's the street outside.

What the hell is that noise?

Heads up.



What was he doing here?

Uh, he was fetching
my yard waste, meneer.

Yeah, I saw that, cheese dick.
He's not on garden duty.

Why is he collecting from you?
Why not him?

From now on... clean up your own shit.

Ja, meneer.

The captain has ordered
a crackdown.

That's why they're all
so spooked.

So, before you do
whatever it is you're doing,

make sure you can get clear
of those snipers.

- Ja. We're figuring it out.
- Yes, well, figure carefully.

You fail, you'll get 25 years
if you're lucky.

A bullet in the head
if you're not.

The sniper on that gun walk
is a complete psychopath.

I heard he shot some kids
in Joburg

and they posted him here
to cool down.

I'll keep looking out for you.

But your whole plan
is doomed to failure.

One of these mornings,

I hope you're going to
wake up and see it.

You're young. And I like you.

But you're part of
a movement now.

What you do affects everyone.

Ja, so help us.

But if we can unlock three
doors, we can unlock 20...

You don't even know
how many there are.

It doesn't matter if it's 100.

If they've got a lock,
we can make a key.

Well, what about
the street outside?

We need civilian clothes.
Other stuff. Quarters nearby.

How do we get out
of the country?

We are working on it.
One step at a time.

There's too many unknowns!

And we'll figure them out.
Be patient.

You need to have patience
with us.

Take patience from the others.
I'm not giving.

20 years, I've been in here!

And once a year,
they give me 30 minutes.

30 minutes.
Alone with my own son.

They try to break us.

No more patience.

We fight back!

He's erratic.

He's made a choice.
What about you?

- Are you...
- Alright, listen!

We are all on the same side.

In prison,
nothing stays the same,

and yet nothing changes.

The routine is the only thing
that gives time any meaning.

So you use it.

You use everything.

You find the cracks
in their armour

and you exploit them
to the fullest extent

day after day after day.

And through those cracks,

in the uneventful footnotes
of prison life...

..victory is won.

That's how you beat
the fascists -

one act of resistance
after another.

- Kitson.
- How's it?

Are you still in charge
of the movie closet?

I'm going there tonight.

When do they let you
have the key?

Your order.


Ja, I can see clearly now.

Little prick.

Ah! Potluck.

That black little rat
you used to hang out with.

Got stretched three days ago.

I hear they had to
winch him up twice.

Twitching and frothing
in his noose.

Armed robbery,

and he gets a free education
and statutory funeral.

More than his worthless natives
could ever give to him, huh?

Enjoy your glasses.

I won't give up.

♪ Dies irae

♪ Dies illa

♪ Solvet saeclum in favilla

♪ Teste David cum sybilla

♪ Quantus tremor est futurus

♪ Quando judex est venturus

♪ Cuncta stricte discussurus

♪ Dies irae, dies illa

♪ Solvet saeclum in favilla

♪ Teste David cum sybilla

♪ Quantus tremor est futurus

♪ Quando judex est venturus

♪ Cuncta stricte discussurus

♪ Dies irae, dies illa

♪ Solvet saeclum in favilla

♪ Teste David cum sybilla

♪ Quantus tremor est futurus

♪ Quando judex est venturus

♪ Cuncta stricte discussurus

♪ Quantus tremor est futurus

♪ Dies irae, dies illa

♪ Quantus tremor est futurus

♪ Dies irae, dies illa

♪ Quantus tremor est futurus

♪ Quantus tremor
est futurus

♪ Quando judex est venturus

♪ Cuncta stricte discussurus

♪ Cuncta stricte
Cuncta stricte

♪ Stricte discussurus

♪ Cuncta stricte
Cuncta stricte

♪ Stricte discussurus.

Come on, come on.
Get in, quick.

No, no, no!


- We try it.
- Ja, ja. OK, OK.

Careful it doesn't break.

- That's enough. That's enough.
- Wait. Wait!

That's enough.
Come on. Come on.

Oh, for crying out loud!

Leave it. Leave it. Come on.

Come on. Come on, come on!


Stand outside your cell.

Are you sick, Jenkin?

No, Captain.

You have some sort of
auditory problem?

Some infection or something?

No, Captain.


So the bell rang
and you heard it.

Why didn't you wake up?

I'm sorry, Captain.

Oh, you're sorry? Oh, well,
that's touched my heart.

Let me tell you something.

When you hear the lunchtime bell
go this afternoon

and you hear the suppertime bell
go this evening,

you will remain in your cell

and I'm not going to
give you any food.

How does that sound, hmm?

I'm... I'm terribly sorry,

Oh, terribly sorry now, is it?

You joined a terrorist gang
of dirty black Rottweilers

and they chewed you up
and they spat you out

and now you're stuck in here
with me! Hmm?

And 20 years' experience
in this job tells me

you slept through my bed
because you're tired,

and you're tired because
you're not sleeping, hmm?

Why aren't you sleeping?

I asked you a question.

I-I'm sorry, Captain.

Oh, "I'm sorry, Captain." Hmm.

"I'm sorry, Captain."

No, no, no, no. I can smell it.

I'm sorry, Capt...

Don't you ever
sleep through my bell again!

Did you hear me
that time, Jenkin?

- Ja, Captain.
- Mmm. That's good.

OK, now, go and stand outside.
Go on. Go on.

No, stand there.

Look at me
when I'm talking to you.

Please. It's my son.

Look at me when I'm
talking to you! Stand there!

- Please...
- Don't bloody move!

Please. It's of my son.

I am allowed to have a picture.
It's of my son.

No. No. No.
No, no, no, don't...

Don't you touch them!

- Do not touch me!
- On your knees, man!

- No, no! No!
- Just shut up!

They're mine! They're mine!

They are mine!

They are mine! You fascists!

Fascists! They are mine,
you fascists!

Don't touch them!
They are mine!

They are mine!
They are mine!

Don't you do it!
Don't you do it! They are mine!

- They are mine!
- Shut up!

They are mine! They are mine!

No more of this dog shit
in here either! Huh?

Hey! Jenkin! Here!

They are mine! They are mine!

No more of that dog shit.
Is that clear?

Ja, Captain.


I'll never understand why
you people surround yourself

with these stupid
little pictures.

And you missed a visit, I hear.
Is that right?

Ja, Captain. Illness.

Oh, so, that's what they
tell you?


What is this?


It's... it's... it's for...
um, photographs, Captain.

What an utterly stupid idea.

Yeah, you are quite the little
housewife, aren't you? Hey?


There is something.

There is something,
and I will find it.

Now, you clean
all of that rubbish up.

Huh? Another one?

Alright, let's go.

I buried my nerves
as deep as I possibly could.

But what stays in
must come out.

And the nightly panic attacks
grew more vicious

as the days went on.

And yet each obstacle presented
new ways of seeing things.

So the entire prison
became a hiding ground.


Cracks in the wall.

Laundry buckets
filled with soap powder.

These became agents of freedom.

And when one door closed,

another one opened.

Many of them with keys
that I had made.

Freedom is a very simple idea.

Which is perhaps why
it can be so easily lost.


There's some decay here.

Arggh! It's when
you touch the back.

He'll have to come to my
surgery. It needs to come out.

Not again, dammit!


Loggie! The electric door!

We're standing here!

Loggie! Open the grille door!
Push the button!

Open the damn door!
Loggie! Wake up!

Oh! Well done!



Oh, shit! Get on your feet, man!

Over the past several
months, we've created 39 keys

for 15 separate doors
around this prison.

We've moved from our cells
to the corridor

to downstairs
and into the admin section

404 days without detection.

We want to share this with you.

Why won't you come?

You said it yourself. They're
building a gun tower outside.

- It's not operational yet.
- You think.

Listen, running around
fiddling with cupboards

and surviving out there
are two very different things.

We're not going with you
because there's nowhere to go.

We can go to Mozambique
and from there to Tanzania.

You're not listening to us.

I've had enough
of listening to you.

- Hey! You show some respect!
- Why?

Alright, that's enough!
I suggest that from now...

And you,
we all know your decision

to fly your flag from behind
your prison bars.

- We don't agree.
- We should turn and follow you now?

- Follow your conscience.
- Are you my conscience?

Yeah. If we have to be.

Anything short of escape is
a pact with the devil himself.

You know that!

One by one,
this government is hacking

everything we stand for
to pieces,

and our inactivity
is complicity!

Every day we sit here,
we justify this regime.

But maybe all you white South
Africans are the same, huh?

You're all talk. No action.

Hey, alright! Alright!

Disrespectful son of a bitch!

Remember who
you're talking to, boy!

I know exactly
who I'm talking to.

- Oh, is that right?
- Yes, it is!

No action? You tell that
bullshit to Mandela! Or Sisulu!

Or any of us at Rivonia! We did
everything we could in '64!

I for one am proud to stand by
my brothers on Robben Island!

Arrested together,
sentenced together,

and if we have to,
we will die together.

This is bullshit!

They would escape, all of them!

Only they can't, because they don't
have this weapon, which we do.

What we do have is our unity.

As it is,
they will interrogate us,

perhaps torture us for months,

even years in here
because of you.

So come with us.

If you want to double
your sentence, go,

but we are not coming with you,
not now.

And don't you dare presume

to come to my country
and tell me how things are!

I've been in prison since before
you knew what apartheid was!

I too have had to watch
my children grow up

through that little
prison visitor window.

I'm 15 years into
a four-life sentence.

It doesn't get any easier.

But a seed has to rot
in the ground

before you can enjoy
the fruits of its tree.

That is the price
we have to pay, all of us.

- Rather than running away.
- We're not running away.

- Then stay. Fight.
- This is how we fight.

We can all go tonight.

And when you're caught?

When we're caught... can come back
from the dead

for those brothers
that you are talking about.

But you won't do it.

I think you'll look back
at this moment

and you'll regret this decision
for the rest of your lives.

Come on. We tried.

Merry Christmas.

And to you.



I think it's too late

to stop your vrot black teeth
falling out, huh?

Or it's more kak to trade
with those black gorillas.

Get them out! Now!

Alright, Tooth Fairy. Out!

Get out of my cell. Get out!


I'm wasting my time in here!
Boy, I promise you!

Oh, thank God!



Crying like
a little girl.

Good luck, you guys.

It's not too late to come.

Make damn sure you get clear.
You hear me?

Come on,
come on, come on.



How can they
find anything in here?


What's this?

Go. Go, go. Go.

Where's the paperclip?
The paperclip?

- Where is it?
- It must be here.

Just bloody pull it!

Meneer! Meneer!
I'm calling you!

Meneer! Meneer!


Meneer! Meneer!

Alright, alright! Enough!

- Stop.
- What?

I need to go back.
I need to go back.

- Why?
- For the buzzer.

The buzzer for
the electric door.



Come on!

Come on, come on, come, come.


Come on, come on, come on.

OK. Go.

OK. Workshop key.

Round tip.

Just the workshop key.

Visitor's room.
It's a round tip.

No, it's not. That's not
what we need right now.

- It's a round tip.
- Guys! Just try them both.



Thank you.

It's OK. Go on, go on, go on.

Get out the way.


Come on, come on. Come, come.

You have to push it
all the way in, mon ami.

The gates are wide open.

You can see the street.

Oh, we made it.

My God.

I'll never forget this moment.

- OK.
- OK. OK.

OK. Next.



- You push it all the way in?
- Yes!

Yes, I'm pushing it
all the way in.

Just give me another one.

I'm out.

That's the last one we have.

- What are we going to do?
- Well... we have to go back.

Back? I'd rather be shot.

Well, we don't have
any other choice!

Hey, guys, just wait. OK, wait.

Ja, maybe.

- What?
- Chisel.

What's going on?
What are you doing?


No! No! Stop! Stop!


This is gonna get us caught!

And they're gonna know
that we did it!

I need to get in deeper.

You can hear it
in the bloody corridor!

Time to have a look.

See? It's coming.

It's getting close.

Ja. OK, ja.
Give me the screwdriver.

Come on, keep going.

Hold. Hold. Hold.

Alright, alright.
That's enough. That's enough.


OK. Let's go.


- Ja, ja.
- OK.

OK. No, no, no. Wait, wait.


OK. Let's go.

OK. Guys, I just want
to tell you, there's no...

Tim, just open the damn door!

No! No! Wait! No!



- Oh, man.
- Let me see.

OK, he's going...

..he's going...

Go. Go. Go.

The map. Give me the map.


Go. Go.

- Alright. Alright.
- Go. Come on.

Uh... three to Joburg.

The white rank is that way.

No. Uh, this... this rank
is fine.

No, that's fine.

Come on, come on, come on.


The lock's not working anymore.

Ja. Tell me about it.

Come on.

Get in. Get in.

Rise and shine, ladies!

Up you get, girls!

- Good morning, Grandad.
- Good morning, meneer.

- Up!
- Good morning, meneer.


Hey! Get up!


Oh, shit! Oh, shit!



Sound the alarm.
Sound the alarm!

Oh, my...

We did it!

We did.