7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE (2018)

  • Release Date: 16/03/2018
  • Director: José Padilha
  • Cast: Daniel Brühl, Rosamund Pike, Lior Ashkenazi, Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer.

7 days in Entebbe chronicles the 7 days through which member of a Palestine Terrorist/Freedom-fighter organization high-jacked an Air France Plane and flew it to Entebbe demanding the release of their brothers in various Israeli prisons. I first heard about the high-jacking of the Air France Plane and its subsequent chain of events as a mere climatic event in the brutal and affecting biopic “The Last King of Scotland” (Idi Amin’s Biopic starring Forest Whitaker as the maniacal overlord). In that film, the high-jacking plot and the subsequent release of a part of the prisoners is used as a ploy to have the protagonist of the film played by James McAvoy escape from Uganda after suffering inhuman brutalities at the hands of Amin.

It felt odd to me even in those days when I was just a naïve young man who was willing to accept almost everything in the name of a true story. I felt that that particular part of the narrative must have been fiction. Now, in 7 Days in Entebbe, I finally get the full and possibly accurate story of the series of events that resulted in the high-Jacking.  In addition, we also get to see the rescue mission that the Israelis undertook to bring out their nationals safe from the clasps of the High-Jackers who belonged to an organization working to deliver lethal strikes on Israelis as an answer to whatever Israel was doing in Palestine.

José Padilha the man behind two of my favorite films, Elite Squad 1 & 2 directs this film. His career in terms of direction has been somewhat uneven with gems like Elite Squad and some forgettable fares like Robocop that was panned by critics and viewers alike (I didn’t hate it though). Here he takes a dramatic international issue and tries to present it as a thriller. He tries to infuse drama. He tries to make us take sides with the characters. He tries to dwell deeper into the psyche of the men involved and offer us some insight into the reasons behind what they were doing and why they were doing it. We also get a peek into the Israeli war room and see them plan the rescue from scratch to success.

On the paper and with so much on offer, 7 Days in Entebbe is bound to feel mouth-wateringly interesting. That was the reason that drove me to it. It was also a fact that I am interested in Jose Padilha films and am eagerly waiting for him to hit the kind of heights that he hit with Elite Squad once again. Unfortunately, 7 Days in Entebbe is not going to be that film.

This is a film that is very well acted. We have Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike at the top of their respective games. They both play German Citizen who have come to sympathize with the Palestine cause after the fall of Nazism in Germany. As one of the characters beautifully put it, they are doing what they are doing because they hate their own country. On the same team are also those who are doing what they are doing because they love their country (Palestine). This conflict and eagerness to prove their inclination to the cause is brought up again and again and leads to some interesting drama. Both Brühl and Pike extract every ounce of emotion from these sequences and try to make their way straight to our hearts.

At the other side of the fence, we have the Israelis (Prime Minister and Defense Minister) planning the extraction and also the story of the Special team entrusted with the task of landing in Uganda and safely rescuing the passengers. While the war-room sequences are exquisitely done and involve you to a great extent, the story involving the Ben Schnetzer as Zeev Hirsch, one of the Special Forces commandoes and his love life that constantly keeps crossing path with his duty is not in the same league. At many junctures, this part feels forced and even irritating. It is just a generic love story that we expect in situations like this that tell us to care for the man underneath the uniform.

A lot of time is devoted to showing the condition of the prisoners and a lot of chatter happens between them which in no time gets boring. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that after a while even the chatter between Pike and Brühl gets reparative. The portion which felt the best (the story of Israel’s reply to the High-Jacking) is interestingly given the least screen time. The film is divided into 7 days of happenings. While Day 1 and Day 7 are brilliant, the rest of it from Day 2 through Day 6 remains mediocre.

When I say mediocre, what I mean is that’s it’s not very entertaining, it is devoid of much drama –which is a surprise– and is completely devoid of any shock value. A film like this cannot withstand if 70 percent of it is in that tempo even if boasts of being a real rendition without any fluff or added spices –which is generally the case.  Add to that the fact that we don’t actually care for any of the characters or have an emotional connect with the causes on both sides of the fence and we have a screenplay that quickly gets drab. There aren’t any elaborate scenes documenting planning, training, action etc which in most cases is a major pull.

The most interesting portions involving Lior Ashkenazi as Yitzhak Rabin (Prime Minister of Israel) and Eddie Marsan as Shimon Peres (Defense Minister of Israel) is kept to a minimum which should not have been the case. There isn’t even much action apart from the final flash which is mostly bloodless and very PG-13.

7 Days In Entebbe had the merit to be an intriguing and beguiling epic but poor execution, patches of boredom and emphasis on portions that should have been kept limited turns it into a half-boring affair. Lack of action, rousing drama and quickly turning repetitive performances take it further down.  Still for those who want to know about the Entebbe event with little fuss and mostly honest retelling may give this film a try. If you can keep your expectations low and haven’t seen some of the better films of this type, chances are you might just enjoy it.

Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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