There were over 50 notable hijackings of planes in the 1970s. One of the most famous ones was the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 on June 27th, 1976. It had serious political implications at the time and it still reverberates today. 7 DAYS IN ENTREBBE is a tense thriller detailing the seven days that this hijacking was drawn out. It’s not a complete success, but it generally does the job of conveying the feelings at the time.
The film goes over each day of the hijacking from the beginning. Much of the action is focused on the two German terrorists named Wilfred Bose (Daniel Bruhl) or “Boni” and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike). They were part of a left-wing militant German organization named Revolutionary Cells. They were fighting for the release of political prisoners in Israel and elsewhere. They were joined by 2 Palestinian terrorists who were not always on the same page as those two.
This backdrop is supported by scenes with the Israeli government and with the IDF commandos who would perform a daring raid in the end. The Israeli government scenes focused on three men. These three men were Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi), Minister of Defence Shiman Peres (Eddie Marshan) and Chief of Staff Motta Gur (Mark Ivanir). There was an intense political rivalry between Rabin and Peres that shined through on the screen. Rabin was cautious and willing to negotiate with the terrorists. But Israel did not negotiate with terrorists. The thinking behind that was it could inspire other people or groups to hijack planes or kidnap people. Peres was behind that way of thinking. He did not want to establish a new precedent with their enemies. Gur was the person involved in getting the IDF commandos prepared for a military operation. This would have to be done in a quick fashion.
Other scenes zeroed in on a young IDF commando and his girlfriend who dances in a dance troupe. The film shows several dance sequences pulled off by the Batsheva Dance Company intercut with training scenes by the commandos and the raid itself. I guess you could say that they serve as a metaphor to the operation or to Israeli-Palestinian relationships. There is a push and pull in all of this and everyone has to work together to make it work. I felt that they were a distraction and didn’t really fit with the movie. It is more of an arty thing to do.
The plane was hijacked after it took off from Greece. It went to Libya for fueling and then finally to Entebbe, Ugunda. Ugunda at the time was ruled by strongman Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie). Amin was vehemently anti-Israeli and tried to curry favor with their enemies and the Soviet Union by allowing the terrorists to land there.
All of this led to intense negotiations between all the parties. The main demand was for the release of political prisoners in Israel. The man stuck in the middle was Amin as he reveled in having so much power in the situation. But he was quite unstable and it shows in one particular scene where he is talking to the Israeli government and he is unbending in letting the hostages go. The Palestinian terrorists were insistent on killing the hostages if the demands were not met.
The hostages were eventually split up. The Israeli and Jewish passengers were separated from the other passengers and put into another room. Many of the other passengers were then let go. Director Jose Padilha does a good job of ratcheting up the tension as the days go by as each group schemes and plans their next move. Padilha spends some time showing Bose and Kuhlmann in the past as they plan this and what their goals are. I did feel a tad uncomfortable with how sympathetic Padilha painted these two people. You don’t have to make them sneering villains, but you also don’t have to make them so sympathetic. There is definitely a fine line and at times it is crossed. It wasn’t enough for me to discount the film, but it gave me some pause.
I would have liked more time spent with the preparation of the raid and with the raid itself. One of the hostages that were killed was not killed during the raid, but afterwards as retaliation from Amin. That could have been an interesting back story to have explored.
7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE is a compelling movie about a tense hostage situation. It does keep your interest, but you might feel a bit underwhelmed by the execution.
Video: The movie looked good on Blu-ray.
Sound: The sound was adequate. Closed captioning was still a must with all the accents involved in the movie.
The Entebbe Team (7:24): The filmmakers and actors discuss the story behind this movie
Inside the Raid (7:45): The raid is gone over by people who were actually there including one of the commandos.
Additional Dance Sequences (5:26): Here are more dance sequences from the Batsheva Dance Company.