Snap Judgment: Movies

Catch a Fire

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Filmmakers have been documenting the horrors of apartheid for decades. Noyce ("Rabbit-Proof Fence") encourages us to feel the echo of current events. "Catch a Fire" tells the true story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), an apolitical oil-refinery foreman in 1980s South Africa whose false arrest and torture transformed him into a gun-wielding freedom fighter. This is how terrorists are created. We root for Chamusso, of course, but the training-camp scenes, in which he prepares to fight his oppressors to the death, create uneasy associations. Luke has real movie-star power. He's enormously sympathetic, but this moving, well-crafted movie, written by Shawn Slovo, mercifully doesn't turn him into a plaster saint. Nor is his soft-spoken interrogator and nemesis, Nic Vos (Tim Robbins), for all his monstrous deeds, a standard villain.

Flushed Away

Directed by David Bowers and Sam Fell

A clever collaboration between Aardman Features--the folks behind "Wallace and Gromit"--and DreamWorks Animation, this computer-animated romp tells the story of Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman), a posh London pet mouse who is flushed down a toilet into a bustling sewer world where his fellow rodents are threatened with extinction by the evil Toad (Ian McKellen) and his nefarious henchmen. Crammed with visual and verbal puns (glimpsed on a bookshelf is "A Brief History of Slime"), hilarious singing slugs and a spunky working-class rat (Kate Winslet) as the love interest, this adventure is very English in its mix of potty humor and literate wit and very Hollywood in its action-packed pace. Though it lacks "Wallace and Gromit"'s charm, its mile-a-minute inventiveness is impressive.

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