“Why are you here?” asks one of the hijackers. “I want to throw bombs into the consciousness of the masses,” answers Wilfried Bose (Daniel Brühl), the intellectual German hijacker who’s one of the hostage takers as he waits for Israel to negotiate to free the hostages in the dramatic thriller, 7 Days in Entebbe.
It’s July 1976 when Wilfried Bose and Brigitte Kuhlman (Rosamund Pike) board an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris via Athens. They have no intention of going to France and are part of a four-member team of hijackers who take control of the plane and force it to land in Entebbe, Uganda. Once on the ground, the hijackers separate the Jewish passengers from the others and demand the release of many terrorists in Israeli prisons.
The Israeli government spends the next few days debating the best course of action. The Prime Minister wants to open a line of communications to the hijackers while the Secretary of Defense looks for a military move to both save the hostages and eliminate the terrorists. As the hours slowly tick away, Wilfried begins to get to close to the hostages. He starts feeling empathy for these innocent victims and begins to doubt if he’ll be able to execute women and children, if their demands are not met.
Closing in on the time limit set by the hijackers, the Israeli government officials finally decide on a military solution. They send in an elite commando unit to raid the airfield, kill the hijackers, and free the hostages.
Based on real life events, 7 Days in Entebbe should be an intense political thriller but instead gets bogged down with trying too hard to make two of the hijackers noble. In addition, the film spends far too much time on the debate with the Israeli officials.
The first half of the film is the best, and Brühl and Pike effectively portray Bose and Kuhlman as tense and at moments doubtful in their ability to pull off the hijacking. The scenes concentrating on the hijacking of the plane and then ultimately the landing in Uganda are extremely well shot and well acted by the cast.
It’s the second half of 7 Days in Entebbe, with its constant negotiating and arguing in Israel on how to handle the crisis, that all tension and urgency are removed from the thriller. Also, the shift in Kuhlman’s attitude feels forced. At first she’s determined and at times intimidating as a gun-wielding terrorist, but then transitions to a women who questions her choices and near the end regrets her actions. The transformation doesn’t work and feels unrealistic. The scene where she slips away to another airport to make a call to her lover, expressing her wish that she hadn’t gotten on the plane, is slow and contrived.
The direction and editing is a big issue near the end of the film when it keeps going back and forth between the daring rescue mission and a dance performance by a girlfriend of one of the commandos. It ruins what should be the most suspenseful and edge-of–your-seat scene in the film and thus ruins the climax of the movie.
7 Days in Entebbe is a missed opportunity for telling the story of the compelling true life rescue mission that shocked and surprised the world in 1976.
Directed By: José Padilha (2014’s RoboCop)
Release Date: March 16, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some thematic material, drug use, smoking and brief strong language
Running Time: 1 hour 46 minutes