Too Entebbe

Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - Exclusive to Fortune

Many have tried to reflect upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and many have failed to do as such intelligently. 7 Days in Entebbe is one such movie. It has misplaced scenes, a bad third act and is too tame. Christian Tesfaye awards 4 out of 10 stars.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most intractable in the world. It is complicated by the unfortunate events before the declaration for the establishment of Israel and terrorist acts directed at civilians. Although it has been the subject of much debate around the world, negotiations between the two parties have not been successful.

Hollywood has not remained a mere spectator. There have been various movies made about the conflict – most of them serious dramas. Although there are a slew of fictional mainstream action and spy movies about the Cold War or World War II, but this is one issue that filmmakers have been careful in straddling the waters.

The latest movie to reflect on the conflict is a real story, about the famous Entebbe hostage incident, called 7 Days in Entebbe. It takes place during the mid-1970s when German revolutionaries joined forces with Palestinian fighters to hijack an Air France plane with Israelis on board and asked for the release of militants.

It stars Rosemond Pike and Daniel Bruhl, as Bridgette and Wilfried, respectively, leftist founding members of Revolutionary Cells in Germany, which was considered a terrorist group. They band together with members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to hijack a plane that has taken off from Tel Aviv and is in transit from Athens to Paris.

Such that they live in a pre-September 11 era, they can bring guns and grenades onto the aeroplane undetected, and order the pilots to take them to Entebbe, Uganda. There, they are welcomed at an old airport by Africa’s most colourful and bloodiest strongman, Idi Amin Dada (Nonso Anozle).

The hijackers mainly demand the release of political prisoners held in Israel, which is pointed out to be akin to committing political suicide to the nation’s then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Despite initial disagreements with the then Minister of Defense Shimon Peres, they settle on not giving in to the demands of the hijackers and carrying out a rescue mission that was dubbed Operation Entebbe.

The Entebbe hostage situation is popular with history buffs, not to mention that it has been brought to the screen a number of times before. The most popular perhaps is not a movie about the hostage situation but Amin himself. In the Last King of Scotland, the film’s white protagonist (James McAvoy) mingles with the non-Israeli hostages the hijackers released from Uganda.

And while there is little time and significance afforded to the scene, there is more imagination in it than the whole of 7 Days in Entebbe. It is unfortunate in a way in that the movie could have been the next Argo. Reading the actual events of the Entebbe hostage takeover, one would think that the filmmakers would have come with more dramatic moments than this.

One of the major setbacks is in trying not to upset any one group. It is good that the filmmakers try to stay neutral, and depict both members of the conflicting parties as relatable humans – only Amin comes out as unequivocally evil in this movie.

But the film is too tame and remains undecided. It presents some facts here and there but never settles upon a conclusion. Instead, it focuses on the emotions and political ambitions of its characters without ever deliberating on the circumstances that have carried the Israeli-Palestine conflict for such a long time.

This film also contains a motif that is meant to comment on the events of the film. Played to a great score, the scene is a dance number where one of the dancers keeps failing to accomplish a particular feat. While interesting and audio-visually striking on its own terms, the scene remains annoyingly unsynchronised with the rest of the film.

The third act was worse. It ends abruptly, without a clear resolution for the characters. The rest of the film is forgivable given impressive performances by its actors. Bruhl is as brilliant as always – to the point he should be indignant that he is not getting more high-profile roles. Pike does an even better job, saving a scene where she talks to herself from being silly. But Anozle steals the show. He portrays Amin with the buffoonery that contemporary Western media emphasised and the monster his victims knew him to be.

Jose Padilha directed the film. He is a director who has failed to emulate his success in Brazil, in Hollywood. While he made acclaimed action movies such as Elite Squad and its sequel in his home country, he remade the uninspiring RoboCop four years ago in Hollywood. There was some hope that this film would be good, as has his production of the Netflix series Narcos, but no luck here.

By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Apr 15,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 938]



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