Directed by: Jose Padilha
Premise: Based on true events. In 1976 an airliner traveling from Tel-Aviv was hijacked and redirected to Entebbe, Uganda. While the terrorists demand the release of their comrades, the Israeli leadership debates how to respond.
What Works: 7 Days in Entebbe takes a historical incident from the recent past and shapes it into a satisfying thriller that is also a nuanced story of terrorism and the response to it. The film works primarily as a thriller. The stakes are immediate and they escalate in ways that are frightening. The story has the unsettling feel of a situation that is spiraling out of control as various characters push toward a violent conclusion and the finale is genuinely gripping. 7 Days in Entebbe is especially successful as a thoughtful story of terrorism. The narrative focuses on Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike), a pair of German revolutionaries who opposed what they saw as Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. Böse and Kuhlmann come across as naïve and the movie is partly about these two gradually realizing the futility of their actions and the way that they’ve made things worse for themselves, for their hostages, and for their cause. 7 Days in Entebbe divides its screen time between the situation in Uganda and the deliberations among the Israeli political and military leaders. There is a tension between Prime Minister Itzak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres played by Lior Ashkenazi and Eddie Marsan, respectively. Peres represents the hardline position of never giving an inch to terrorism while Rabin argues that negotiation must be part of a long term strategy to achieve a peaceful coexistence. The tension between the different factions of the Israeli government acknowledges the complexity of the problem of terrorism and 7 Days in Entebbe deserves credit for the way it offers nuanced characterization without equivocating on anti-Semitism or condoning terrorism.
What Doesn’t: 7 Days in Entebbe does a lot right thematically but it isn’t so successful dramatically. The film never quite finds its rhythm and the story jumps backward and forward on the timeline in a way that seems random. The movie uses a performance by the Batsheva Dance Company as a recurring device. It adds some style to the movie but the relevance of the dance number is not evident. 7 Days in Entebbe also suffers from overreach. The Entebbe incident involved several important historical figures including Itzak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie), and Yoni Netanyahu (Angel Bonanni) the brother of future Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The coda at the end of the movie attempts to force a bigger meaning onto the events and a message about reconciliation and communication that doesn’t quite fit. The movie hasn’t built up to that idea and it would have been stronger to leave the meaning more ambiguous the way Munich did.
Bottom Line: 7 Days in Entebbe is a flawed but satisfying thriller that’s a little more thoughtful than the average terrorism movie. It is clumsy in places but it has good performances and a sufficiently engaging story.
Episode: #692 (April 1, 2018)