7 Days In Entebbe **

If you want to watch a great movie about hostages and near escapes…skip this and watch “Argo” again. 

Is it worth $10? No             

If you’re going to make a movie about terrorists hijacking an airplane in an effort to bring a country to its knees, it must above all be suspenseful. “7 Days In Entebbe” is not. It’s rather dull, actually, and inexplicably, given the talent, production value, and story involved.

Gregory Burke’s script is based on the true story of a 1976 Air France flight that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists while on its way to Tel Aviv. If director Jose Padilha’s film is labored because of its faithfulness to true events, that is an unforgiveable mistake. Burke and Padilha are not making a documentary, meaning artistic license is expected in order to tell the story in an entertaining and engaging way. This film is neither.

After hijacking the plane, two of the terrorists, Boni (Daniel Bruhl) and Brigitte (Rosamund Pike), turn out to be…reasonably nice people. At least, as far as terrorists go. We flash back to them six months before the hijacking in Frankfurt, Germany, as they begin to plan. They discuss their reasons for doing so, and we spend a lot of time (too much time) getting to know them. They’re revolutionaries who believe in Palestine and feel that threatening the lives of the Israeli hostages is the best way to obtain their goals. They always render as human, and sometimes humane, rather than as monsters; at one point Brigitte lets a little girl go to the bathroom, and Boni lets a woman he believes is pregnant off the plane. Throughout they insist they don’t want anyone to get hurt, and true to form they do their best.

As they wait with the 239 hostages at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, and are assisted there by Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie), the terrorists are sure the Israeli government will contact them to negotiate the release of the hostages. But Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and Minister of Defense Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) take their time, strategize, and ultimately make a smart decision.

And why not wait? On two occasions a busload of hostages are freed. This, combined with the kindness of Boni and Brigitte, provides the sense the hostages aren’t in grave danger, and in doing so it weakens the suspense. As viewers we think, “it’s okay if the rescue plans don’t work because the bad guys don’t seem so bad.” Padilha is trying to have it both ways by asking the audience to sympathize with both the hostages and some of the terrorists, and it doesn’t work.

Not helping matters is an odd theatrical dance performance that is supposed to metaphor what’s happening in Entebbe, but struggles. Add to this a weak musical score, muted performances from Bruhl and Pike, and a story that just never gets going and you have a movie most people will be happy to miss.

One of my rules of criticism is to never recommend a movie that has an element of time in the title if it feels like it takes that amount of time to watch the film. “7 Days In Entebbe” feels like it takes seven days to watch it, so don’t.

Did you know?
The commander of the rescue mission, Yoni Netanyahu, was the older brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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