7 Days in Entebbe review: History diluted

It’s been 42 years since the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) carried out one of the most challenging rescue missions in history. On July 4 1976, 100 commandos rescued the hostages of the hijacked Air France plane from Uganda. Now, Hollywood revisits the atrocity yet again with José Padilha’s (Robocop, 2014 and Narcos), 7 Days in Entebbe.

Told over the seven days of the hostage crisis, the film focuses on several parallel arcs. We’re drawn into the passengers’ anxiety at being held in a derelict terminal at an Uganda airport; they’re hungry, dirty and constantly surrounded by gun-toting guards. At cabinet meetings in Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) wants to negotiate (opposing the country’s strict terrorism policies) against Defence Minister Shimon Peres’ (Eddie Marsan) better judgement. Simultaneously through flashbacks we’re informed of the German hijacker’s motives of joining the extremist outfit, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations.

7 Days in Entebbe
  • Director: José Padilha
  • Cast: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Ben Schnetzer, Lior Ashkenazi
  • Storyline: Recalls the real life incident of 1976, when terrorists hijacked an Air France plane’s passengers demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

By completely eschewing a primer on the Israel-Palestine’s communal strife or even character back stories, Padilha’s narrative takes on an unnecessary complication that could be easily avoided. For instance, there’s a reference to militant Ulrike Meinhof pulled out of thin air, that eventually becomes a catalyst for a character’s thirst for revenge.

The two German terrorists Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl) are often depicted not as revolutionaries with complete belief in their cause, but as bored bourgeoisie middle-class Europeans lusting after ‘the cause of the day’. Their intense need to help Palestines often renders them branded as Nazis and ultimately, puppets in the manipulative hands of the Palestines. Padilha ensures he highlights the world’s neglect of the Arabs’ plight but at the same time paints the hijackers in either black or white.

When on one hand, Padilha takes restraint to the extreme, at another he forgoes it entirely to ineffective results. There’s an unnecessarily lengthy arc of a commando (Ben Schnetzer) — part of the rescue faction — whose girlfriend is part of a dance troupe in Tel Aviv bringing celebrated Jewish choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16 to the stage. The critically acclaimed piece is a celebration and tribute to the founding of Israel which includes references to the Holocaust.

The film’s saving grace is the focused recreation of the actual rescue that unfortunately gets diluted because of Padilha’s decision to swiftly cut between it and the Minus 16 performance. What does help immensely is the dance’s soundtrack, the powerful Hebrew passover song, ‘Echad Mi Yodea’. Though not a lengthy film, it’s too excruciating a wait to get to the good parts of 7 Days in Entebbe.

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 10:01:44 AM |

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