A history lesson for some, a snooze fest for others.
Entebbe tells the true story of the 1976 plane hijacking that resulted in passengers being held hostage for seven days in Uganda.The 1976 hijacking of a plane en route to Paris from Tel Aviv with a stopover in Athens undoubtedly caught world wide media attention. The hijackers had hoped that they could exchange hostages for Palestinian prisons and a ransom. With a number of film and television adaptations of this event already in existence one can’t help but wonder what another one could bring to the table.
Entebbe opens with members of the Batsheva Dance Company performing Ohad Naharin’s ‘Echad Mi Yodea’. This is about as lively as it gets. The story is focused predominantly on two narrative threads, that of the hijackers and of the Israeli government who try to deal with their demands. On board a flight from Tel Aviv four passengers make themselves known as they wield guns and grenades and begin shouting at the other passengers to cooperate and comply with their orders.
With a number of film and television adaptations of this event already in existence one can’t help but wonder what another one could bring to the table.
Of the four hijackers it is the two Germans that the story aligns itself with, Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl). Self proclaimed revolutionaries and with the weight of their homeland’s guilt on their shoulders, they each set out trying to stand up to fascism in the name of Palestine.
Redirecting the plane from its original destination, after a brief pit stop, they end up in Uganda, Entebbe where they hold the passengers hostage for seven days. Using an old disused terminal, the hijackers who are now united with the rest of their pro-Palestine group set about getting their demands to the Israeli government.
Meanwhile, in Israel, the Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) butts heads with the minister of defence Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) over the best way to tackle the events that are unfolding. Determined not to negotiate with terrorists Peres insists on sending in a military rescue team, while Rabin feels that negotiating might be the best way to end things quickly, and with the least casualties. Running along in the background is the potential threat posed by Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie) who seems to have no qualms with the terrorists using his country as a base for their tactics and adds another threat for the hostages
With a fairly standard running time of roughly one hour and 45-ish minutes, Entebbe feels like a long, hard slog to get to the finish line. With the energetic opening and almost immediate hijacking of the plane the pace is all to quick to slow to a snails pace. I can imagine the difficulty in trying to make a film about a historical event that everyone knows the ending to fresh and new. But director José Padilha and writer Gregory Burke seem to have made little to no effort in making the film tense or exciting at any point.
Entebbe feels like a long, hard slog to get to the finish line.
There’s a whole lot of dialogue with the Israeli government discussing and debating tactics and outcomes; and the Germans contemplating their motives and reasons for being there in the first place. Padilha tries to add in some character background through flash backs of Kuhlmann and Böse’s time back in Germany and at a training camp, but it’s never anything that you can sink your teeth into. The use of actual archival footage in places functions to remind the audience that the events on screen are based in reality and do add a certain element of authenticity to the film. That, combined with the set design and costuming actually works as one of the film’s strong points - it does feel like a step back in time to the 1970s.
With the hostages practically acting as background characters, not actual people in jeopardy, the film fails to get the audiences emotional involvement. A couple of half hearted attempts are made to generate some sympathy for the hostages — an elderly concentration camp survivor has a breakdown and a young family are almost torn apart — but this all sinks into the background. There is a vague attempt to use the plane’s engineer as a kind of conscience figure for Böse, but even this doesn’t go anywhere.
It seems as though Padilha and Burke were more concerned about delicately treading on egg shells so as not to offend anyone rather than inject any life or purpose into the characters or their motives. Strangely, Pike and Brühl as the hijackers are given the most background and it's them that I presume the audience are supposed to identify with. They’re each given the chance to showcase some emotional vulnerability as their characters do their best to justify their cause and reason for being there, even if it doesn’t wholly come across.
It seems as though Padilha and Burke were more concerned about delicately treading on egg shells so as not to offend anyone rather than inject any life or purpose into the characters or their motives.
Entebbe will probably function as a history lesson to those unaware of the conflict in Palestine or even of the hijacking. But as an entertaining film it doesn’t quite take off. It is definitely not a film that necessitates being seen at the cinema and even with its 12A rating, I can’t imagine it being a film younger audiences would enjoy. The dance performance that opens the film, that periodically pops up throughout, acts as an interesting comment on freedom, it’s just a shame that as much effort wasn’t used for the actual film.
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