Review: Entebbe takes even-handed approach to story of real-life hijacking
- Credit: Liam Daniel
The hijacking of an Air France flight in June 1976 by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and a subsequent rescue mission led by Israeli forces are terrific raw ingredients for an edge-of-seat geo-political thriller.
This takes us back to the good old days when the primary concern of anyone caught up in a hijacking was how the toilet breaks would be managed. In the 1970s, when Marxism was the fundamentalist creed, hostages tended to be in there for the long haul and when a collection of German Marxists and Palestinian revolutionaries took control of an Air France plane flying from Jerusalem to Paris and flew it to Entebbe airport in Uganda, that was the start of a nine-day ordeal finally ended with a daring raid by Israeli marines.
The film takes a bog standard disaster movie approach to the story. It has a foot in many camps. We switch between the Israeli government fretting over what to do, and our various narrative representatives in hostage situation: the flight engineer (Denis Menochet), a hostage Jewish family, the Palestinian terrorists, a member of the Israeli military force and his dancer girlfriend.
Mostly though the focus is on Rosmund Pike and Daniel Brühl as the two German Baader Meinhof revolutionaries who, after overseeing the initial hijacking, find themselves being sidelined in Uganda.
They agonize over being Germans threatening to kill Jews and Brühl's character tries to be as even-handed and fair as possible.
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Brazilian director José Padilha once seemed to be a talent on the move but his (really quite good I thought) Robocop remake fell flat and the resulting Hollywood cold shoulder led him to pitch in with British production company Working Title.
Entebbe though is a film where you can't see where the impetus came from. In its even-handed way, it is tentatively trying to suggest to Israel that maybe some kind of negotiation might be the best way forward, but there's no fire or passion in this film. It limps along and none of the performances seems particularly animated or enthused. Nonso Anozie's roly-poly Idi Amin is simply comic relief.
The obvious flaw in the film is, however balanced it tries to be, the decisive, firm Israelis become the heroes. Whatever the bigger issues, in a film narrative you root for the baddies to get their comeuppance. They are the terrorists, they deserve to die and remain so even after one of them explains that he is there because his entire family had been killed when an Israeli tank flattened their car as they were trying to escape from a massacre.