As hostage-rescue missions go, Operation Thunderbolt was a doozy. Thunderbolt was the Israeli response to the hijacking of Air France flight 139, which occurred while the plane was stopped over in Athens en route to Paris from Tel Aviv. Two radical leftist Germans and two militant Palestinians used guns and grenades to convince the captain to divert to Benghazi and then to Entebbe in Uganda, where they had secured asylum from dictator Idi Amin. (Cinema buffs can turn to The Last King of Scotland for more on Amin, where he’s played by Forest Whitaker in an Oscar-winning performance.) After six days of stalling and internal debate, Israel flew 100 commandos to Uganda and rescued the hostages with a daring raid on the airport; the operation saved all but three of the remaining 106 hostages, although it ultimately left 56 people dead -- most of them Ugandan soldiers.
7 Days in Entebbe dramatizes these events and attempts to show the hijacking and rescue from every perspective. Director José Padilha succeeds in not favoring any one side of the crisis -- which is to say, this is not a political film. This objectivity and fairness, though, lend it a sterile feel and contribute to its languid pace. The raid itself is barely shown; instead, most of the movie’s energy is devoted to the debate between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and Defense Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan). Rabin essentially favored working with the hijackers to secure the hostages, while Peres felt that Israel should maintain its policy of not negotiating with terrorists. The dynamic between the two is exacerbated by domestic political considerations, and the tension between them is what drives the film. Unfortunately, this conflict doesn’t really have enough power to sustain the plot, a fact that further slows the movie’s pace. For a superior example of how to make a story like this compelling on film, see the 2017 picture 6 Days, which is about the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London.
One of the strengths of 7 Days is its bevy of excellent performances. The most gratifying one is from Rosamund Pike, best known for co-starring in Jack Reacher and Gone Girl, in the role of German hijacker Brigitte Kuhlmann. Pike plays Kuhlmann as strident and militant, yet still unsure of the righteousness of her cause. The role seems a stretch for Pike at first, but she rises to the occasion opposite her equally impressive colleague, Daniel Brühl, who plays Kuhlmann’s German partner in the hijacking, Wilfried Böse. There’s some fine support work as well, including a performance by Denis Ménochet (Inglourious Basterds) as an Air France flight engineer.
The events themselves will be fascinating to most people for any number of reasons, and those events are very well portrayed in 7 Days. The film does a great job of showing that people on both sides of a conflict are still ultimately human beings, too. Those who despair that Hollywood doesn’t make enough movies for grown-ups will be pleased by 7 Days in Entebbe.
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- Released: 2018
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: As hostage-rescue missions go, Operation Thunderbolt was a doozy. Thunderbolt was the Israeli response to the hijacking of Air France flight 139, which occurred while the plane was stopped over in Athens en route to Paris from Tel Aviv. Two radical leftist… (more)