Somehow, with his latest film, director Jose Padilha wrangles some serious drama out of a story that many are already familiar with. The well-acted 7 Days in Entebbe generates some real thrills as it dramatizes a famous hijacking of an Air France flight. It opens at the Cedar Lee Theatre on Friday.
A quick history lesson: Back in 1976, four people hijacked a plane on its way from Tel Aviv to Paris. Two of the hijackers were Palestinian members of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the other two were leftist German radicals out to prove that Israel had capitulated to Western capitalist urges and needed to learn a major lesson. The two Germans — Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann — had painstakingly planned the attack and forced the pilot to stop in Libya to refuel. They then forced him to land in Uganda, where the passengers de-boarded in Entebbe.
Much like Argo, 7 Days in Entebbe turns the real-life story into a dramatic thriller (and takes a few liberties with the story along the way).
Once Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) receives word of the hijacking, he and defense minister Shimon Peres (a particularly smarmy Eddie Marsan) debate their next move. They decide on a covert military rescue that involves smuggling a black Mercedes into the country so that the rescuers can pose as Mercedes-loving Uganda dictator Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie) as they make their way to the abandoned transit hall where the passengers are held captive.
All the while, Wilfried (Daniel Brühl) and Brigitte (Rosamund Pike) realize their ideals about combatting capitalism in a non-violent manner were terribly naïve. While they only want to threaten the hostages, their PLO counterparts are much more ruthless and make it clear they'll kill the people if their demands aren't met.
While the film often resorts to arthouse cliches in the attempt to connect a subplot about a young dancer's performance with the rescue mission, Brühl and Pike carry the movie. They're almost too successful at making the radicals into sympathetic characters when, in fact, they put innocent people in danger in the misguided attempt to make a political statement.