On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by revolutionaries. They had the plane flown to Entebbe, Uganda and demanded the release of more than fifty Palestinians who were being held in Israel. They promised to start killing hostages if their demands were not met. This story, and the struggle inside the Israeli government about how to handle this situation, is told in 7 Days in Entebbe, the third American film about this event (the other two, 1976’s Victory at Entebbe and 1977’s Raid at Entebbe, were both made for TV movies).
The film relates its story in a very mechanical fashion. This is what happened, this is why and this is how it was resolved. That would be fine if the film was exciting or insightful or had a thought-provoking message. But it does not quite succeed at any of those things. 7 Days in Entebbe is competently made and acted, but not very interesting to watch. Director José Padilha (director of the 2014 Robocop remake) and screenwriter Gregory Burke have a message: the Israelis need to try to negotiate with their enemies (Israel has a no-negotiation policy). However, I am not sure the movie makes the point they wanted to make. I know it is in there somewhere but, despite all the moving parts in this story, it is not an effective enough vehicle for getting it across. That message does not seem to fit with the conclusion of this film.
7 Days in Entebbe focuses on two people on both sides of the conflict. The main characters in the Entebbe sequences are two of the hijackers, Germans Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl, from the TNT series The Alienist) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike, last seen in the western Hostiles). The Israel side is about Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi), and his Minister of Defense, Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan, who was seen last year in the spy movie Atomic Blonde). The Germans feel for the Palestinians and think they can help them, while the Israeli’s struggle with how to protect the hostages.
There is a lot of conflict and drama in both of those plots, yet the screenplay never gets past the basics. Böse is an idealist in over his head and Rabin is afraid of being blamed if they are unable to get the hostages out alive. That is as deep as the film gets. Individual scenes are interesting, but they do not add up to much. The movie is about what they did and is too light on why they made those decisions.
7 Days in Entebbe (99 minutes without the end credits) aspires to be more than just the retelling of these events. Padilha tries for metaphors (there are several scenes featuring an Israeli dance troupe) in an effort to infuse meaning and timeliness into his film. But it is surface level only. There is nothing really wrong with the film, except that it is not very engaging. All the tension is in Entebbe, but the story there is all over the place. And the more interesting characters are in Israel (Marsan’s frustrated and practical Shimon Peres is the best thing in the movie). It makes for a dull viewing experience. In the end, 7 Days in Entebbe is a thought-provoking missed opportunity.
2½ out of 5
Daniel Brühl as Wilfried Böse
Rosamund Pike as Brigitte Kuhlmann
Eddie Marsan as Shimon Peres
Lior Ashkenazi as Yitzhak Rabin
Nonso Anozie as Idi Amin
Directed by José Padilha
Written by Gregory Burke