‘7 Days in Entebbe’ is Surprisingly Effective

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CHICAGO – What would you expect from an event subject that has been already rendered four times on film, and deals with terrorism, hijacking and government negotiation? “7 Days in Entebbe” contained all of this, and yet still maintained a separate energy and cinematic artistry. In many ways, it’s one of the most surprising films of the young year.

The story combines some very interesting use of cinema with analogous casting. Character actors Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike portray hijackers in conflict, willing to stand up for their leftist beliefs until it comes to actual combat. Actual people are portrayed who were involved in incident (the film is set in 1976), and are treated with a respect to the reality of the situation. The tension of the decision making – should an Israeli task force raid the terrorist camp or should the government negotiate for the release of the hostages? – was a constant push and pull in the story, which was uniquely fascinating. Director José Padilha makes the whole debate more of a moral dilemma, and juxtaposes a unique piece of dance choreography as an artistic mirror. This is a different kind of rah-rah-we-rescued-them film.

On June 27th, 1976, an Air France plane with 248 passengers is hijacked on a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. Among the hijackers, planned by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), are two German members of a leftist revolutionary cell, Böse (Daniel Brühl) and Kulhmann (Rosamund Pike). The plane is forced to fly to Entebbe, Uganda, then under the rule of Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie).

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Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl in ‘7 Days in Entebbe’
Photo credit: Focus Features

Back in Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) is conferring with his Minister of Defense Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) for strategy, including a raid and rescue. Rabin is on the side of negotiation – the PFLP wants prisoner releases – and Peres is lobbying for raid and rescue. That latter option is implemented, and the military spends the next tense days planning the mission, which took place on July 4th. The task force comes in at night, the raid will last 90 minutes.

The focus on the hijackers are with the characters portrayed by Brühl and PIke, and they take the conflict between the scripted lines and formulate performances that are deeply compelling. Anarchy was in the air during that era, yet the shadows of Nazism were also part of the comparative tightrope. All of these difficulties flowed through the German hijackers, adding a layer not expected in this type of film.

Precise casting also made the government intervention side, as Lior Ashkenazi creates a in-depth Yitzhak Rabin. He wears the circumstance in his bearing, chain smoking and in constant debate with Eddie Marsan’s remarkable Simon Peres. Ashkenazi also portrayed a fictional Israeli prime minister in last year’s film “Norman,” and seems born to play this particular leadership role.

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Yitshak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi, right) and Cabinet in ‘7 Days in Entebbe’
Photo credit: Focus Features

The Raid on Entebbe is one of the most celebrated military victories in Israeli history, and the way that screenwriter Gregory Burke and director José Padilha formulated a familiar heroism story was part of what makes this film so distinct. Padilha frames both the action and negotiation with an odd piece of dance choreography (presupposing that one of the raid soldiers has a dancer as a girlfriend), and as the tension builds in the story, so does the extension of the “dance.” It’s rare that an artistic bit of cinema emerges from such a subject matter, and it enhances the film.

This creativity also frames the film as a call for peace in the zone of conflict that is the State of Israel. This familiar story used the blazing light that is the Raid on Entebbe to cast shadows of moral imperative for solutions beyond the use of an “eye for an eye.”

“7 Days in Entebbe” has a nationwide release on March 16th. Featuring Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Eddie Marsan, Lior Ashkenazi and Nonso Anozie. Screenplay by Gregory Burke. Directed by José Padilha. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Writer, Editorial Coordinator
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2018 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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