7 Days In Entebbe: A Slow And Ineffective Crime Drama
Review by Aaron Haughton
7 Days in Entebbe is the latest film from Brazilian director José Padilha (Narcos, RoboCop [reboot], Elite Squad) and Scottish playwright and screenwriter Gregory Burke. The film recounts the famed Operation Entebbe, which was a successful counter-terrorist hostage-rescue operation carried out by the Israeli Defense Force in July of 1976. You would think that a hostage based terrorism film would be taut with action and tension, but that is not the case with 7 Days. The film is more concerned with sympathizing and humanizing with its terrorist/political activists (played by Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike) than it is with the actual operation itself, and it's not any better for it. The film flirts with some thought-provoking concepts but never manages to scrape the surface of being interesting. Instead, it plays like Munich lite or a version of Argo devoid of any real moments of gratification.
Narratively, the film is jumbled, and never manages to get anywhere, jumping between three different narratives that feel more shoehorned than blended. The film's primary focus is the background of the German political activists who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. This narrative seeks to humanize these individuals and focuses very heavily on the Nazi-like correlations to their participation in kidnapping several people of the Jewish faith. This concept sometimes hits some mildly interesting notes — the best instance being a scene between Brühl and a holocaust survivor — but mainly falls flat, like the majority of the film. The rescue operation, which should be front and center, takes a backseat to the get-to-know-your-terrorists storyline and mainly consists of characters continually stating the obvious. The last and most out of place storyline follows an Israeli commando training for the operation and his girlfriend who's a dancer. This storyline feels like the most forced aspect and is only really there to reinforce themes that are heavy handed and snooze worthy.
Structurally, these three storylines feel grossly out of balance. The film's open is probably the apex of its freshness and gives way to some kinetic title cards before tracking over to the Israeli commando who is watching the performance from afar. The push to this commando seems to signify that they will be a central character to the film's narrative, but we don't revisit the commando or the dancer until 40 minutes into the film. Even then, the portions of this particular narrative never manage to elevate the story in any significant way. The dancer and the commando are tertiary to the narrative and the juxtaposition between the operation and the dance is used too many times — during the practice runs and the actual operation. The flip side narrative following the Israeli government should match the time spent examining the lives of these terrorists, but it's only given fleeting moments and scenes which are peppered throughout the meatier terrorist plot thread.
Visually, there's really nothing special about this film. The lighting and cinematography have a very made-for-TV quality, and the direction is mostly docu-realist handheld that isn't warranted and doesn't enhance the story. The airplane hijacking and other moments of tension really never reach the heights they should, and all the performances are disappointing, particularly Pike and Brühl. Only Denis Ménochet, who also starred alongside Brühl in Inglorious Basterds, manages to shine here as the kidnapped airplane engineer. He brings a lot of pathos to his character and to the hostage situation. Seeing him act alongside Brühl was somewhat interesting because of their connection to Inglorious, which subtly reinforces the Nazi/Jew dynamic the film pokes at and was mostly likely not intentional by any of Entebbe's creatives.
All in all, 7 Days in Entebbe is a turgid slog of a political drama that fails at nearly everything it strives to achieve. If you were interested in giving this one a shot, just wait until the film hits On Demand or streaming platforms, as there's not much substance here.
Rating: 1.0 humanized terrorist outta 5.
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