Aka: 7 Days In Entebbe. Directed by Jose Padilha. Starring Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl, Eddie Marsan. UK / USA 2018 102 mins Certificate: 12A
Released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 10th September 2018 from Entertainment One
The hijacking of the Paris-bound Air France flight in the summer of 1976 has already been the subject of a couple of significant films, including Irvin Kershner’s quick-off-the-mark American TV movie RAID ON ENTEBBE (first transmitted in January 1977) and Eyal Sher’s excellent feature documentary OPERATION THUNDERBOLT: ENTEBBE (2000). Despite the evident talents of ELITE SQUAD / NARCOS director Jose Padilha (whose last theatrical release was the ROBOCOP remake), this revisit to familiar territory fails to offer any novel insights or even a particularly compelling dramatic angle.
Gregory Burke’s screenplay cuts between locations and time frames as the crux of the story is established: the flight, carrying 248 passengers, is hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two representatives of West Germany’s Revolutionary Cells (Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl), calling for the release of 50 Israeli prisoners. As the plane is redirected to Uganda’s Entebbe Airport – with the full support of dictator Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie) – the Israeli government, headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and Defence Minister Eddie Marsan, debates what to do while no one dares underestimate Amin’s next potential actions.
Adorned with fabulous 1970’s roll-neck jumpers and Deirdre Barlow jumpers, the surprisingly cast Pike underplays effectively as Brigitte Kuhlmann, though suffers (along with everybody else) from a genuinely weak script in which characters unconvincingly mull over the conundrum of Germans potentially killing Jews while saying things like “Idi Amin is crazy. He eats people, he feeds them to the crocodiles”. Oscillating between the pre-hijacking training camps in Yemen and post-hijacking interviews with a surviving passenger, the ambitious structure tends to undercut any possibility of sustained tension, despite the ominous ticking-clock deadline as the hijackers vow to kill two children every 24 hours.
Padilha strives for urgency with a roving camera and a brisk pace, but somehow the movie winds up reducing a terrifying and riveting true story to the level of a banal disaster movie with no more sense of threat and intensity than a typical AIRPORT movie from the period in which it takes place. The presence of nuns, children in peril and a pregnant English passenger in distress add to the sense that George Kennedy might show up at any moment to flirt with Shelley Winters. ENTEBBE is also hampered by a bold but misguided decision to frame the story – and punctuate the climax- with an elaborate choreographed dance routine courtesy of the undeniably impressive Batsheva Dance Company.
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