Set in Silverton, Pretoria, in 1980, and based on real events, Silverton Siege is a South African crime drama, about three gun-wielding freedom fighters who get caught up in a hostage situation. The movie follows the story of Calvin, Aldo, and Terra, as they escape police capture, by fleeing to a nearby bank.
Directed by Mandla Dube, and starring Arnold Vosloo, Stefan Erasmus, Noxolo Dlamini, and Tumisho Masha, the trio enter the bank thinking it is somewhere they can find a brief moment of respite. Upon realising their mistake, they instruct all of the bank’s staff and customers they will not be harmed if they simply remain calm, and then trio try to formulate a plan of escape.
While the group request quiet inside the building, in order to think about their next move, a large collection of police – led by Captain Johan Langerman – surround the outside of the bank. Langerman then makes contact with Calvin, the head of the freedom fighters, to try and bring the situation to an end.
As part of the negotiations, Calvin requests a helicopter, to allow him and his colleagues to leave the surrounding area. Although Langerman agrees to this demand, it is soon revealed that he’s not being completely honest with the trio, and a trap has been set to capture them.
Unsure what to do next, Calvin makes a new demand: He will surrender the hostages, if the government agrees to release Nelson Mandela from prison. Mandela has been incarcerated since 1962, and according to Calvin, the only way to bring this whole situation to a close, is for Mandela to go free.
What began as an unexpected hostage situation, soon turns into a political movement, and when the general public learn of Calvin’s demand, they begin to side with him. Can Captain Langerman accommodate this request or will the police eventually have to storm the building?
I’ll start this review by saying that Silverton Siege is a pretty decent movie. It’s not A-list stuff, nor is it the most dynamic picture, but it offers a fair amount of drama, a good cast, and a story which doesn’t wear out its welcome.
One of the key strengths of the film is the way in which it dives into the action pretty quickly. Rather than faffing about with endless set-up, the film makes it clear the story is about freedom fighters, who are at odds with the law, before they very quickly find themselves in a hostage situation.
From here, the movie then explores some interesting themes, touching upon some racial and political discussions along the way. It opens up a window into a key time in South African history, and it finds ways to inject a little suspense and tension into the narrative too.
Could it go harder and deeper with its storytelling? Yes, and some of the material in Silverton Siege does feel surface level at times. However, it gets its messages across quite clearly, with a story which is concise and easy to follow.
At times Silverton Siege comes across a bit like a television movie, but I expect this has more to do with its limited budget rather than anything else. With more money behind the picture there could have been a bit more spectacle and possibly more action, which would have elevated things here and there.
However, Silverton Siege is fine and provides just the right amount of story to keep things running smoothly. The film also works well as a period piece, capturing the look and feel of the 1980s just right.
Should you wish to take a look for yourself, Silverton Siege is currently streaming on Netflix. Once again, it is not the most dynamic movie, but it is pretty decent.