Silverton Siege review – an important story but lacks motivation to explore it properly

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 28, 2022
Netflix film Silverton Siege


Set in Apartheid-era South Africa, Silverton Siege has its potential, but with bad writing and not having a clear path to follow, it becomes an average hostage thriller.

This review of the Netflix film Silverton Siege does not contain spoilers. 

On January 25, 1980, three MK cadres — Stephen Mafoko, Humphrey Makhubo, and Wilfred Madela — sieged a bank in Silverton, Pretoria, to run away from the police after their plan to sabotage on patrol depot at Watloo near Mamelodi failed. The siege eventually sparked the free Nelson Mandela in South Africa. After 42 years of that incident, the South African director Mandla Dube brings this vital story of the apartheid era with his film Silverton Siege.

A 100-minute-long, highly paced hostage thriller has all the potential to become a memorable watch. Director Mandla tries his best to give the audience a slick, politically charged film about his country’s dark history. There are three freedom fighters (described as terrorists by the authority), an honest and logical police officer and his counterpart, a bigoted and authoritarian superior, and hostages, who are practical to understand the conditions that make the trio come to this extent. Also, director Dube gives the touch and feel of a Hollywood hostage or heist film with car chases, gunfights, and taking the reference of deceit from cult classic Reservoir Dogs. So, in every prospect, the film seems an enjoyable period film. But with a messy screenplay with unmotivated plot points and explicit remarks, the film becomes nothing but a whim.

Sabelo Mgidi’s written screenplay initially looks promising for the first 15 minutes. But once our protagonists enter the bank, the film becomes more and more uninteresting. The tension needed to be put on the screen as all feel trapped inside the bank is surprisingly missing. Also, the characters’ interactions while negotiating or commanding the hostages or arguing with each other seem whining and repetitive. The motivations around every action in the film are left unexplored. As a result, the film messes with its path and fails to go anywhere. It’s just trapped in its daydreaming of becoming a superior tale about the psychological impact of political unrest and social injustices on the people blended with entertainment.

I become delighted to see Arnold Vosloo on the screen as it brings back my childhood memories of watching The Mummy franchise. He and all the actors, especially the trio (Thabo Rametsi, Noxolo Dlamini, and Stefan Erasmus), try to portray the characters aptly on the screen. But as the written material is not quite strong, the characters feel underdeveloped and unmotivated.

Silverton Siege is nothing but an average film with some undeveloped issues. If the loopholes in the movie become fewer, it has the power to create a sensational story. But for the time being, it doesn’t get nearer and doesn’t seem to have any intention of getting there. As a result, it is nothing but an average hostage thriller on the backdrop of the history of one of the largest segregated societies in the world.

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