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March 21, 2018 11:08 am

‘7 Days in Entebbe’ Is a Film That Can’t Be Rescued

avatar by Alan Zeitlin

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A C-130 Hercules in front of the old terminal at Entebbe Airport in 1994. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Screenwriter Gregory Burke and director Jose Padilha have done something absolutely astounding with “7 Days in Entebbe”: they’ve taken the story of one of the most daring and exciting rescue operations in military history, and created one of the most boring movies in film history.

They’ve taken a story with a mighty hero in Yoni Netanyahu — a brave man who was killed during the rescue operation — and given him almost no place in the film. Perplexingly, the movie opens with the Passover song “Echad Mi Yodeya?” That song asks the question: “Who knows one?” But halfway through the film, you will be saying “Dayeinu” — which means “Enough.”

In 1976, two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — and a man and woman affiliated with the Bader-Meinhof gang, Wilfried Bose and Brigitte Kuhlmann — hijacked Air France Flight 139. The flight originated in Tel Aviv, and the terrorists boarded the plane during a connection in Athens.

After taking the passengers to Entebbe, Uganda, the non-Jewish passengers were released — and the more than 100 Jews who remained were told they would be killed if Israel didn’t agree to meet the kidnappers’ demands, and release terrorists in Israeli jails. Israel launched an unbelievable and unprecedented rescue operation, in which nearly all of the hostages were saved.

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Bose and Kuhlmann are played by Daniel Bruhl and Rosemund Pike. Bruhl is fantastic in “The Alienist” on TNT, and Pike showed her fine acting chops in “Gone Girl.” Sadly, their performances here are forgettable. They look like graduate school philosophy teaching assistants, not terrorists — though that may be by design. Denis Menochet, whose greatness you may remember opposite Christoph Waltz in the iconic opening of “Inglorious Basterds,” has no chance to show his talent here. As part of the flight crew trying to fix a water pipe problem when they are on the ground, he actually tells a terrorist that a toilet makes you free. Wow.

Then there’s Lior Ashkenazi, arguably Israel’s best actor, who plays Yitzhak Rabin. Once the success of the operation has been confirmed, does Rabin hug someone, shake someone’s hand or celebrate? Of course not. Here, he looks sullen and laments that a peaceful resolution was not found — and then decries that “war will never end.” This is beyond insulting.

The only thing that will keep you somewhat awake is the performance Eddie Marsan, who plays a riveting boxing coach on “Ray Donovan.” He’s one of the last actors I would imagine playing Shimon Peres, but given what he has to work with, his performance is engaging and shows effort.

The 1977 film “Raid on Entebbe” is full of tension, has a soul and makes you care. If the movie needed to be made again, it should have been written and directed by Paul Greengrass, who brought us “United 93.”

The pathetic truth of “7 Days of Entebbe” is that the only real hostages were the actors. The story has been hijacked to show it as part of a simple cycle of violence — and almost glorifies the terrorists. There is not a single moment of tension, nor a second where you care what happens to any character.

There’s another gem in the film. When Kuhlmann is planning the hijacking; she says: “Germans killing Jews, have you thought about that?” This is to make us think that she feels some guilt. But seconds later, she’s making out with a guy. She also declares: “I only fear a life without meaning.” It’s too bad the creators of “7 Days in Entebbe” didn’t fear making a movie without one.

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  • Erica Ling

    Today there are no heroes, else there would have to be villains. And our society is heading where there is to be no moral distinction between good and evil, what Benedict XVI called the Dictatorship of Relativism. But thank you, Mr. Zeitlin, for saving me 1 hour 46 minutes of my life.

  • bigrobtheactor

    Sorry to read. For an ethnicity that supposedly “controls” the movie industry we still haven’t managed to find the confidence to create and display a Jewish hero playing a Jewish hero. Instead we get Adrenne Brody running for his life or Ben Kingsley saved by the heroic gentile.

  • watsa46

    So who are Burke & Padilha?

  • Scorpio

    Although your film reviewer manages to hit a few well-placed flaws in the film, his general wipe out is unwarranted. Yes, the opening titles which contrary to the established history declare Israel as an unprovoked attacker of Palestinians do leave a sour taste in our mouths, but as the narrative unfolds, the story of the Entebbe raid is told in a way that satisfies this lover of Israel and a life-longer defender of the Zionist enterprise. The Israeli cabinet that struggles with the problem that is suddenly thrown in its lap is depicted as a government of a democratic state and, of what I know about both, Perez and Rabin are truthfully represented by the script and by the actors bringing them to life.
    From the moment the Israeli military establishment clicks into action, the film takes a pro-Israeli point of view. Yes, some of the hijackers are made to look quite human and some sympathy for their cruel and misguided motivation is definitely shown. After all, they may be our enemies, but even they have human impulses. To ignore that is to engage in unsophisticated propaganda. Of course, we are all film producers (in our minds) and had we had an opportunity to bring this epic story to the screen, we would have done it differently. And, by the way. the inter-cutting of the Bat Sheva dance company performance with the action of the commandos landing in Entebbe is a most-effective bit of film-making.
    I liked the film, and would recommend it.

  • ricardo

    I saw it yesterday. You’re right, it stinks.