7 Days in Entebbe promised to be a thrilling retelling of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight en route to Paris from Tel Aviv.
On board, two Palestinian and two German terrorists (they’d prefer “freedom fighters”) supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took the crew and passengers hostage, 246 people total. They rerouted the flight to land in Entebbe, Uganda, where they demanded the release of 53 Palestinian and pro-Palestinian militants — 40 of whom were incarcerated in Israel.
The well-known, heroic story encapsulates Israel at a time of heightened warfare, in which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Defense Minister Shimon Peres and the Israeli government formulate a near-successful rescue mission — but you wouldn’t know that from watching 7 Days in Entebbe.
The film — directed by José Padilha and written by Gregory Burke — opened March 16 to wishy-washy reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 23 percent, and IMDb 4.8 out of 10 stars.
It’s not the first Entebbe film to recreate the thrilling tale, but it is the lowest rated compared to its three 1970s-era counterparts.
Although a noble story to share, the film doesn’t entertain some of its most compelling elements of real-life events.
The movie opens with an artistic dance number by the Batsheva Dance Company, shot with a Hollywood flair but still in an Israeli style.
As suspense intensifies during tumultuous scenes, it flashes back to the dance troupe, which features the girlfriend of an Israeli soldier co-leading the raid on Entebbe.
Sitting in chairs arranged in a semi-circle on stage, the dancers pop up in a domino effect, while the one woman falls to the ground, representing fallen soldiers of war and the Israel Defense Forces’ synchronized plan of action.
But that’s as introspective as the dance number gets.
From there, the story mostly follows the perspective of the two German intellectuals, played well by Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl. We see their backstories and their struggles, as they come to realize how it will “look” to the world that two Germans who are Palestinian sympathizers are rounding up Jews in an abandoned airport with AK-47s.
We don’t see any backstory of other characters, from the hostages to Rabin or Peres, whose concerns portrayed in the film come off as trite.
You do see the Israeli government making plans — with little enthusiasm — but they are painted as nonchalant, except for a moment with Rabin near the end.
There’s no opportunity for the audience to connect with any of the characters, so how are viewers supposed to sympathize with the main characters who are clearly the bad ones in this true story?
The Palestinian sympathizers are passionate yet misguided — who is the film trying to portray as the hero?
This historical moment represents a source of Israeli pride for the people and its government, but the government comes off as stiff and uncaring. For a story in which Israelis save people of all backgrounds from terrorists, there’s no sense of pride for the Jewish state.
Even further, there’s no acknowledgment of Yoni Netanyahu or his brother and future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at all, who was a critical part of the story. Viewers see Yoni Netanyahu — the only IDF soldier who died in the raid — get shot almost immediately into the operation.
It seems as though emphasizing the Germans’ viewpoints was meant to be a way to illustrate how they eventually came to regret their decisions, conflicted by personal and existential crises. But that trivial assumption got lost in reality, and the pair dangle in their own uncertainty throughout.
If there was an underlying message of the movie, it was spoken briefly through the point of view of a Palestinian who helped orchestrate the hijacking.
Our enemies are our neighbors, he explained of Palestine and Israel to the Germans, and you definitely can’t get rid of them if we’re always in a war with them.
He continued by saying if he had the luxury of being European, like the two Germans, he would never pick up a gun.
“Only people with nothing understand,” he paused. “The Jews understand.”
The film glimpsed into the future, with text at the end explaining how future Israeli leaders dealt with peace talks, in order to bring home the point that this conflict affects everybody — without negotiations, the fight will never end.
And it hasn’t. The film notes that those leaders who came close to forging some sort of peace agreement were cut short by time or death.
Regardless of your views on the raid on Entebbe, or even Israel-Palestinian relations, 7 Days in Entebbe should be presented one way or the other — pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. But this plot dangles in the middle of presumed progressivism, letting the viewer decide how they feel about Germans who call themselves “humanitarians” while threatening to murder innocent children with AK-47s.
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