As we’ve seen from José Padilha, a producer and director of the immensely popular Netflix series Narcos, the Brazilian filmmaker has a unique ability in taking real life events, and making them ineffably, and impossibly cinematic, without compromising on the authenticity at hand. He therefore seemed the perfect fit to bring Gregory Burke’s screenplay for 7 Days in Entebbe to life, dramatising the 1976 hijacking of a French airplane departing Israel.
It was on an Air France flight from Tel-Aviv to Paris that self-proclaimed freedom fighters Wilfried Bose (Daniel Bruhl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) decided to make a stand against Israel, and divert the landing to Entebbe, Uganda, taking many Jewish passengers hostage in a bid to release many terrorists being held in Israeli prisons. Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi), along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) are forced into action, and they’re against the clock, desperately trying to figure out a way to have peaceful conclusion that will see none of their compatriots killed.
7 Days in Entebbe marks a challenging balancing act for Padilha, but we move seamlessly between the hostage situation in the Ugandan airport, and the government offices back in Israel. This intelligently structured tale shares similarities to Norwegian thriller A Hijacking in that regard, and while not quite punching that same emotional punch, it’s still equally as impressive in terms of its storytelling. The film is creatively inclined too, particularly in how Padilha implements powerful sequences that bookend the tale, courtesy of the Batsheva Dance Company, providing a certain intensity, and profound political message, in a subtle, yet affecting way.
That said, and given the narrative here, 7 Days in Entebbe should be more suspenseful than it is, lacking in that same degree of intensity that came with Argo, as the film, much like the hijacker’s endeavour, does get somewhat tedious the longer it goes on. There is, however, an intriguing exploration on the notion of heroism, with a blurring of the line between good and evil, representing a somewhat complex issue, where we can see both sides’ arguments, even if the actions of the freedom fighters are reprehensible – such is the performances by Bruhl, and in particular Pike, we can find empathy and help to understand their motives, even if we don’t agree with them.
There’s a sense of futility that lingers over proceedings too, as we delve into the conflict between Israel and Palestine from over 40 years ago. There was a brief time where peace talks seemed possible, but now they seem as far away as they ever have, and this gives the film a vital degree of pertinence that ensures it’s so much more than just a throwaway thriller, even if, at times, that’s all it feels like.