“7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE” — 2½ stars — Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl, Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer, Nonso Anozie; PG-13 (violence, some thematic material, drug use, smoking and brief strong language); in general release
Jose Padilha’s “7 Days in Entebbe” feels like a mediation as much as a movie.
Padilha’s film is inspired by the true story of the 1976 hijacking of Air France flight 139, when over 250 passengers were held hostage in a Ugandan airport for a week. There were a variety of nationalities on the plane, but the thrust of the action pits Palestinian terrorists against Israeli citizens in a protest of the Jewish state.
Aside from a handful of brief flashbacks, the story unfolds chronologically through the seven-day ordeal as the flight is first hijacked, then taken to the Entebbe International Airport in Uganda, where the terrorists hold the hostages in the terminal with the pensive cooperation of Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie)’s Ugandan forces.
Rather than paint the narrative as an “us vs. them” or "good guys vs. bad guys" scenario, “7 Days” skips through a number of different perspectives in an attempt to understand, if not quite rationalize, the crisis.
Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl play Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfried Bose, a pair of leftist German revolutionaries who joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine because they support the Palestinian cause, but are forced to reconcile their commitment when confronted with the reality of terrorizing — and potentially killing — innocent civilians. Considerably less time is spent with the actual Palestinians involved with the hijacking, save for an impassioned exchange where one terrorist questions Bose’s connection to the cause.
Back in Israel, we see the perspective of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi), who wrestles with his country’s “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” policy while playing a political dance with Defense Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan), who is trying to put together a rescue mission.
The military perspective comes from an Israeli soldier (Ben Schnetzer) serving as part of “The Unit,” a special faction of the Israeli Army trained for such operations. His girlfriend Sarah (Zina Zinchenko) provides an interesting creative thread through a modern dance performance that punctuates different moments through the film.
The sum total is more interesting than entertaining, juxtaposing a lot of philosophy and political rhetoric against the terrified looks of the children whose lives are being threatened at the airport. It’s also interesting to watch Kuhlmann and Bose wrestle with the reality that, three decades removed from the Holocaust, the world is watching German terrorists threatening the lives of Jewish civilians.
For all its intrigue, “7 Days’” story tends to drag, and even the mortal danger of the situation doesn’t evoke as much tension as it should. The buildup to the film’s climactic resolution feels methodical where it should build momentum, and as a result, the payoff doesn’t carry as much of an emotional catharsis.Comment on this story
The film’s opening titles acknowledge that some dialogue and scenes had to be invented to tell the story, and no doubt the various parties and those who support their causes will have pointed takes on “7 Days'” interpretation of the event.
Padilha clearly wants “7 Days in Entebbe” to encourage the peace process between Israel and Palestine, but in the effort to pursue noble ends, Padilha may have sacrificed what could have been a better movie.
“7 Days in Entebbe” is rated PG-13 for violence, some thematic material, drug use, smoking and brief strong language; running time: 106 minutes.