One of the most prominent terror attacks in the 1970s, the hijack of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris made headline news around the globe. In 1976, two Palestinian and two German terrorists diverted the plane, eventually, to Entebbe airport in Uganda, demanding the release of pro-Palestinian militants, many of whom were being held in Israeli jails. What followed was a seven-day siege that concluded with Israeli counterterrorist forces dramatically rescuing all but four of the 106 hostages.
The events have been made several times into movies, but now it’s the turn of Brazilian director José Padilha, who is on safe ground here. His breakout movie was Bus 174, a doc about a real-life bus hijack, while his prize-winning Elite Squad covers similarly violent terrain. Scripted by Scottish screenwriter Gregory Burke (‘71), Entebbe looks at the crisis from various viewpoints, cutting between nervy scenes on board the plane to heated around-the-table discussions by Israeli top-level politicians.
British actress Rosamund Pike plays Brigitte Kuhlmann and Daniel Brühl is Wilfried Böse, the two Germans from the left wing radical group Revolutionary Cells. In truth, they’re given greater focus than the two Palestinians; Pike’s character is angry, violent and jacked-up on amphetamines, whereas Brühl’s man starts to question his own beliefs the further the siege goes on. Padilha, who knows how to stage an action sequence, keeps the camerawork as jittery as his protagonists.
Meanwhile in Israel, power plays exists between the then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and his Defence Minister Shimon Peres (British actor Eddie Marsan, on fine form). Neither can agree on the right way to proceed, as they set about orchestrating what became known as Operation Thunderbolt. Also impressive is Nonso Anozie who offers a livewire turn as Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator who welcomes the hostages to Entebbe airport.
Less compelling is the way Padilha intercuts events with a dance sequence, choreographed by Ohad Naharin, which is meant to be symbolic of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, but ends up being rather ill-fitting. But there is no doubt that Padilha and his team have done their research. Entebbe is gritty, authentic and full of edgy realism.
Entebbe opens on 11 May. For more details, visit the film’s Facebook page.
1. Still from Entebbe.