Saturday 31 July 2021

Movie Review: 7 Days In Entebbe (2018)

A recreation of an infamous airline hijacking and subsequent rescue operation, 7 Days In Entebbe (also known as simply Entebbe) takes time and care to cover all perspectives despite traversing well-known terrain.

In June of 1976, four German and Palestinian terrorists seize command of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris during a stop-over in Athens. Close to 250 passengers and crew-members, including more than 80 Israelis, are held hostage. The two German hijackers are Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl), members of the Revolutionary Cells. She is fiery and committed, while he is more of an intellectual idealist. 

The plane eventually lands at Uganda's Entebbe Airport, where the hijackers receive reinforcements. The hostages are crammed into the old terminal building and Uganda's eccentric President Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie) milks the event for publicity. The terrorists demand the release of prisoners and set a deadline to start killing the hostages. As the tense hours and days tick by, Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and Defence Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) have to decide whether to break a policy of non-negotiation, or mount a daring rescue operation.

Soon after the actual events at Entebbe, the rescue codenamed Operation Thunderbolt was portrayed in several breathlessly produced movies funded by US television networks and starring the likes of Charles Bronson and Burt Lancaster. Benefitting from the passage of time and more than 40 years of subsequent history, here writer Gregory Burke takes a deep breath and adopts a more cerebral approach. 

With director José Padilha at the helm, 7 Days In Entebbe laments the lack of meaningful progress in advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and draws a jagged line between fallen heroes and obstinacy. Within the 1970s ambience bathed in brown/orange colours plus corduroy and polyester, Burke also injects a pointy cultural streak through the story of Israeli soldier Zeev Hirsch (Ben Schnetzer), part of the commando team, and his dancer girlfriend Sarah (Zina Zinchenko). She is the star performer rehearsing an interpretive modern dance set to a traditional Hebrew song, and Padilha builds to a quite brilliant juxtaposition of art and war.

Elsewhere the focus among the hostage takers is on the two German terrorists, Brigitte and Wilfried covering the spectrum from ruthless pragmatist to rudderless theoretician, and both grappling with how the world will perceive Germans threatening or killing Jews, no matter the cause. The debate around the Israeli cabinet table is a candid portrayal of political opportunism and careerist calculus clashing with a real-time crisis. The Palestinian voice is relatively underrepresented, although on a couple of occasions the Palestinian hijackers do provide stark reminders to their German comrades about the difference between ideology and sober reality. As for the hostages, the flight engineer of the Air France crew carries the load of grounded courage.

As the rescue team takes flight into the turbulent winds of a never ending conflict, 7 Days In Entebbe earns the right to theatrically celebrate audacious heroism while simultaneously unleashing a cry for a long overdue peace.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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