sat 26/05/2018

Entebbe review – Seventies hijack drama remains grounded | reviews, news & interviews

Entebbe review – Seventies hijack drama remains grounded

Entebbe review – Seventies hijack drama remains grounded

Gripping real-life story becomes mediocre movie

Rebels without a clue: Daniel Brühl as Wilfried Böse, Rosamund Pike as Brigitte Kuhlmann

The freeing of a plane-load of hostages by Israeli forces at Entebbe airport in Uganda in 1976 produced an instant spate of movie versions. Raid on Entebbe starred Peter Finch and Charles Bronson, Victory at Entebbe offered gainful employment to Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, while the Israeli-made Operation Thunderbolt featured Klaus Kinski as German hijacker Wilfried Böse.

In this new update by Brazilian director José Padilha (RoboCop, Narcos), the Böse role goes to Daniel Brühl, playing opposite a disappointingly brittle Rosamund Pike as his partner in ideologically-driven crime, Brigitte Kuhlmann. The pair of them – allies of the Baader-Meinhof crew, fanatically opposed to the post-war West German state which they considered to be riddled with old Nazis, and making common cause with the Palestinian revolutionary group the PFLP – hijacked an Air France jet flying from Tel Aviv to Paris (they boarded it in Athens), and ended up landing it in Idi Amin’s Uganda. There’s a glimmer of light relief from Nonzo Alosie’s Amin (pictured below), a grotesque posturing buffoon, but the unfortunate passengers endured a week inside an airport terminal while the Israelis agonised over how to respond to the hijackers’ demands for the freeing of Palestinian prisoners.

It’s a gripping story bristling with thriller-ish ingredients, but Padilha’s film seems to have been superglued into second gear. Though the initial hijack is skilfully handled and generates a frisson of claustrophobic terror, much of the 107 minute running time is devoted to earnest and wordy expositions of the philosophies driving both sides.

In Israel, there are lengthy rhetorical battles between the politicians and the military about whether to go for the military option and if so, how. Eddie Marsan stands out as Shimon Peres, conveying a devious grasp of realpolitik as he steadily chips away at Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and his reluctance to press the go button on the airport raid.

However, some reviewers – the film was released a couple of months ago in the States, under the title 7 Days in Entebbe – have bristled at the way Padilha seems to have been more than even handed with the hijackers. The director’s idea seems to have been that Böse, a bookseller specialising in revolutionary texts, was more of a theoretical terrorist than an actual one, and a man who couldn’t bring himself to massacre the hostages when Israeli forces burst dramatically into the Entebbe airport building.

We see both he and Kuhlmann protesting at the way their Palestinian comrades separated the Jewish passengers from the rest, apparently not having foreseen that the spectacle of Germans massacring Jews only 30 years after World War Two was likely to bring down a landslide of international condemnation. Böse is also tasked with uttering slogans like “I want to throw bombs into the consciousness of the masses”, so perhaps we’re meant to infer that he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box.

As for Kuhlmann, Pike plays her as an ashen-faced, tight-lipped zealot, growingly increasingly manic and bug-eyed as she gobbles handfuls of amphetamines to keep awake during the interminable stand-off. There’s a neat scene where she conducts an imaginary conversation on an airport pay-phone, though the phone line had been cut off (screenwriter Gregory Burke made this bit up, though).

But Padilha seems reluctant to lift the tempo above a lingering low-level tension. His worst decision was the inclusion of modern dance interludes by Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Dance Company, which look dramatic but, shorn of explanatory context, are meaningless. Cutting this footage into the airport attack sequence disastrously saws the floorboards from under what should have been the movie’s most powerful moment. At a time when we're seeing a shocking resurgence of anti-semitism, this film might have delivered an eye-opening jolt, but instead it feels bloodless and semi-detached.

Apparently they didn't foresee that the spectacle of Germans massacring Jews was likely to bring down a landslide of international condemnation

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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