Film Review: Entebbe

Frances Winston feels that this film, Entebbe, was a missed opportunity to portray the facts of this historical hijacking, and was not clear in what it was trying to say. 

Directed by: José Padilha Starring: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer, Lior Ashkenazi, Denis Ménochet

People of a certain age may well remember the hijacking depicted in this film, which occurred in 1976, when Palestinian and German terrorists hijacked an Air France flight en route to Paris.

I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the story, however, as it was a bit before my time. I vaguely remember hearing it referred to as an aside in various history documentaries etc., but I had no real knowledge of the impact of the events going into this film. In case you’re wondering, the title is the name of the Ugandan Airport where they held their hostages for the duration of the incident.

You’ve probably gathered that Entebbe isn’t the cheeriest of films. It is intense from the off, although the opening, which features a modern dance piece supposed to be representative of the struggle between Palestine and Israel, sets a rather odd tone.

We pretty much get straight to the hijacking though, and subsequently are bombarded with political facts and back-stories to justify the terrorists’ actions. Perhaps there is so much exposition because the filmmakers are concerned that people won’t remember the story, and they may be right. However, it really does drag the film down in parts, and distracts from the main story.

That said, there is not a lot of action or excitement in a seven-day hostage situation anyway. Many of the scenes are just people sitting around in an airport questioning why Israel hasn’t yet met their demands. There is a poignant scene where a holocaust survivor becomes panicked by the conditions, but these moments are few and far between.

Entebbe boasts an excellent cast. Daniel Brühl is always worth watching, and he is no exception here. He just isn’t given a lot to do, other than spout political beliefs and look pained that he was misled about the plan. Ditto for Rosamund Pike, who is woefully underused, and often feels like the token female bad guy.

Juxtaposing it with the aforementioned dance show (which one of the Israeli soldier’s girlfriends is participating in) is an odd choice, which leaves the movie feeling disjointed in places. The only justification for it seems to be to give the character of the soldier, who is apparently Benjamin Netanyahu, now the Prime Minister of Israel, some screen-time. But I had no idea who he was supposed to be, until the fact he is now Prime Minister popped up in the credits.

Overall, Entebbe is a bit of a mess. It is extremely politicised, frequently states the obvious, and doesn’t really seem to know what it is trying to say about the events. I was unsure if I was supposed to feel empathy or anger towards the terrorists, so vaguely is it written.

The violence is also incredibly downplayed. You could be forgiven for thinking this was the most civilised hijacking in history, and even the final rescue effort is shot in stylish slow-motion, rather than portrayed as the bloodbath that it was.

Entebbe misses an opportunity to properly tell the story of these events, which were incredibly significant moments in the history of Israeli and Palestinian relations. Entebbe is not sure what message it is trying to convey, and feels quite disjointed in many places. It is interesting from the point of view of finding out more about the hijacking, but not gritty or engaging enough given the subject matter.

Extremely tepid, Entebbe feels longer than its 107 minute running-time.

In Cinemas Now!


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