Entebbe and Flow
Here’s a nutty idea: What if they made a based-on-a-true-story historical drama that didn’t end with the expected images of the real-life people portrayed in the film? Dare to dream. Brazilian director José Padilha (Elite Squad; Robocop) instead dutifully continues this unfortunate and self-justifying trend in 7 Days in Entebbe, splicing actual footage of Israeli hostages returning home into the ending of his workmanlike political thriller, acting almost as though the story’s authenticity were in doubt.
Of course, that moldy grace note is hardly the only shopworn element in 7 Days in Entebbe, a competently crafted and acted but largely unoriginal take on a story that has already been filmed several times (once in Israel and twice for American television). In fact, the only unique element that Padilha brings to the film is an unexpected obsession with politically charged interpretive dance. It’s not exactly what I was hoping for, but you take what you can get.
The story of 7 Days in Entebbe concerns the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane carrying Israeli citizens by pro-Palestinian revolutionaries, who diverted the plane to the Entebbe International Airport in Uganda, where they were greeted by the country’s mentally unstable dictator Idi Amin. They planned to use the hostages as leverage to negotiate the release of political prisoners held in Israel, even though the country had a long-standing policy against negotiating with terrorists.
However, warring agendas among the hijackers, the unpredictability and ambition of Idi Amin, and an internecine political struggle in the Israeli government mucked up any potential for peaceful resolution, and the situation was eventually resolved with a daring and deadly military rescue operation. Previous versions of this story supposedly lionized the Israeli leaders and soldiers, but as soon as we realize that Padilha intends to “humanize” the hijackers, including a couple of radicalized German intellectuals played by Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike, the movie’s moral crises practically write themselves.
We know we will get the scene where a Palestinian patriot challenges the commitment of his more academic co-conspirators, just as sure as we know that conversations with sympathetic hostages will cause those same co-conspirators to question their humanity. Brühl and Pike do the best they can with their roles, as do Lior Ashkenazi as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Eddie Marsan as his political rival Shimon Peres, but none of the characters in 7 Days in Entebbe are developed beyond their symbolic value.
Despite the film’s many shortcomings, it remains watchable and effective. Padilha is no master storyteller, but he is good at arranging the pieces of a sprawling international production, and like I said, the interpretive dance obsession is hot nonsense. It’s strange and ridiculous enough to make you wish that Padilha had fully followed that muse and told this story as a splashy musical rather than a dehydrated drama. It probably would have failed, but it at least it would have been his own failure, instead of something secondhand.