From Brazilian filmmaker, José Padilha comes his take on the Israeli hostage rescue mission at Entebbe Airport in 7 Days in Entebbe. This is his dramatization of the seven days leading up to the hostage rescue operation known as Operation Thunderbolt.
On June 27, 1976, an Air France airliner with 248 passengers carrying mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers, was hijacked by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two German sympathizers, Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike).
After commandeering the plane, the hijackers flew the hostages to Entebbe, Uganda, where the hostages became the guests of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie). The demands of hijackers are simple, Israel must release 53 military and political prisoners in exchange for the hostages.
“…dramatization of the seven days leading up to the hostage rescue operation known as Operation Thunderbolt.”
The film’s story takes place on two fronts, Entebbe Airport, and Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. In Entebbe, the focus is placed on the hostages, their living conditions, and the two German outsiders. In Jerusalem, we peer in on the debate and political maneuvering between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and his cabinet, but specifically with defense minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan).
7 Days in Entebbe story-wise is many things. First, a historical thriller re-enacting the events in Entebbe from the hijacking in Greece to the final rescue. Second, a political drama giving a fair shot to the hijackers by rationally explaining their actions and motives, while simultaneously offering a glimpse into Prime Minister Rabin’s inner circle as he struggles with Israel’s long-standing do-not-negotiate-with-terrorists policy and value of negotiation. Third, the entire story is overlayed with a tense modern dance routine from the Batsheva Dance Company, that is interwoven with the rescue mission.
If anything, 7 Days in Entebbe is thought-provoking. Right off the bat, the film starts in a dance studio featuring a routine that will play throughout the film. Admittedly, I know nothing of modern dance. While the images were striking, unsophisticated me did not fully comprehend the symbolism of the dance itself. That said, it’s visually intriguing and manages to work as part of the film as a whole (Padilha spoke in great detail about the dance routine in a Film Threat interview).
“Pike and Brühl portrayed the conviction of the real hijackers magnificently…”
It’s also a little cliché for a film to put us in the shoes of the terrorists, which this film does. But there was a reason they did what they did. Böse and Kuhlmann, in a way, believed they were heroes and both Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl portrayed the conviction of the real hijackers magnificently.
Most striking to me was the debate between prime minister Rabin and defense minister Peres. The debate was less about rescuing hostages, but more about the political ramifications of every decision they made. Who would really be hurt if the hostages died? What message would be relayed to the entire Middle East, if Israel would give in? What message would be sent if Israel even hinted at negotiating or talking to the Palestinians?
While 7 Days in Entebbe is a good film, it falls short of being great. Primarily, the tone and energy of the story’s action and tension barely rises above lackluster. Most of the real action of the film comes from flight engineer Jacques Lemoine (Denis Ménochet), who is the film’s hostage-turned-hero in just bringing humanity to the hostages.
What worked was a solid story, a rescue plan that was easy to follow, fantastic acting, and a fair presentation of all viewpoints and opinions.
7 Days In Entebbe (2018) Directed by José Padilha. Written by Gregory Burke. Starring Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer, Lior Ashkenazi, and Denis Ménochet.
3.5 out of 5 stars