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Patrick Chamusso is a man on fire—or rather, he becomes one. In this biopic-thriller about a South African hero, Chamusso (Derek Luke) is content to make a modest living as a foreman at a Secunda oil refinery. Despite the anti-apartheid rebellion starting to rage around him (it's the early '80s), he prefers to remain apolitical and uninvolved.

After a bomb destroys part of his plant, he's arrested for suspicion of terrorism and brutally interrogated by Col. Nic Vos (Tim Robbins, an actor too skillful to let his baddie slip into caricature). Chamusso maintains his innocence even as he's tortured and humiliated. When he learns his wife has been beaten, however, he is coerced into a false confession. Robbins ultimately realizes he's got the wrong guy and lets him go.

Incensed, Chamusso burns with a new sense of purpose—to become a rebel fighter—and leaves his fam for Mozambique, where he joins the outlaw activist organization African National Congress. With Robbins in hot pursuit, Chamusso and his radical buds plot to blow up the refinery, the very act he was wrongly accused of. Oh, the irony.

Director Phillip Noyce (the terrific Rabbit-Proof Fence) clearly knows how to integrate the politics and the personal without resorting to didacticism or sentimentalism. Though the story takes some time to fully ignite, his Fire—fueled by a powerful score and Luke's passionate, sensitive performance—is definitely worth catching.