Thursday, 17 May 2018

Film: '(Seven Days in) Entebbe'

(In the U.K. the film's title is the single word name of the Ugandan town).

It's been a lean time in these parts in recent days for the discerning cineaste. To keep a foot in the door I'd been minded to see two films this week, both of which have received less than enthusiastic reviews. I ditched 'Breaking In' and opted for this one.

Those of my generation will remember the incident in 1976 which grabbed the entire world's attention for several days - the skyjacking of a French plane having just taken off from Athens, flying it to Uganda, with the terrorists threatening to kill all the passenger hostages and French crew if Israel did not release imprisoned Palestinians and sympathisers in its gaols. Israeli passengers were separated from the rest but there was the threat that all passengers would be killed if demands were not met.  
Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl play the leaders of this grim plot, both members of (the then West) Germany's Baader-Meinhof gang, - both of them to me seeming curiously under-powered in this film, considering the focus of the entire world being on them for so long - hardly any hysteria and very little shouting. 
Even the Israeli cabinet and politicians (including the estimable Eddie Marsan as interim Prime Minister, Shimon Peres) didn't appear to be unduly over-excited despite the rest of the world being on tenterhooks.

A principal curiosity of the film is the very strange appearance of an act, semi-dance and semi-'creative' modern interpretive movement (I guess) - performed by about twenty be-suited (mostly) men to a rousing Hebrew song, on stage in front of an audience. And what's worse is that it's repeated in short snatches throughout the film (why?) - moreover, and most controversially perhaps, its repetition is juxtaposed with the climactic shoot-out at Entebbe airport. The significance of this insertion missed me totally. It must have taken some nerve to decide to risk this, and although it added a different dimension to what would could otherwise have been a routine conclusion, I have serious doubts as to whether it worked successfully.
Through the film there's only minimal on-screen violence with nothing really to look away from. I have to say, though, that despite those of us who remember the incident knowing how it finished, there were moments now and again when tension was reasonably well ratcheted up. 

It's Brazilian director Jose Padilha who takes the chances, but I don't think he's created here a film which does justice to the seriousness of the world-shaking event which had consumed all the news media for a week or more. Rather better, and covering the same events, though not without faults, was the 1976 film 'Raid on Entebbe' (filmed just a few months after it actually happened) with Peter Finch (who was himself to die just a few months later) and Charles Bronson - with Yaphet Kotto as the crazy President Amin.

Not exactly bad, then, but ought to have been ever so much better - helped significantly by omitting that too-oft repeated 'dance' act............5.5.
(Current IMDb rating - 5.8.......Rotten Tomatoes - 5/10)

8 comments:

  1. Do you remember the TV movie from the seventies
    With David groh, Richard Dreyfus and Helen hayes

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    1. I don't, JayGee, because I've never been a great telly watcher. I can't even recall any talk of it. It must be significant for you to have mentioned it, though.

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  2. I've watched the original Raid on Entebbe and also The Last King of Scotland. I don't think I need any more Idi Amin films, unless somebody wants to make one about his years in exile in their Saudi Arabia. A couple of days ago I went to see The Green Lie. It's a new Austrian documentary film about how we are polluting the planet and decimating the rain forests etc.. It was filmed mainly in Indonesia, USA, Germany, South America. There must have been at at least 10 of us in the cinema. I'm only joking, there were really less than that.

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    1. The Amin character only has a bit part in this film, Gwil. Nevertheless, he represents a still scary curiosity when one considers what we know about him, even at the time this film relates to. But he's not enough to make one want to see or avoid the film for that reason alone. There are several other reasons.

      I'd not heard of 'The Green Lie' but, on looking it up, if it does come to here I think I'd rather not see it as it's sure to get me irate and raise my blood pressure, something that happens easy enough when I just have to think about the subject. And your experience with a tiny audience only underlines people's lack of concern - unless they are also avoiding it for the same reason as me, of course!

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  3. I read the Guardian reviewer after I read yours and he said very much the same thing and found the same irritations of the film that you found. Overall he gave the film 1 star. I decided to give it a miss.

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    1. I think awarding it a single star (out of four?) would be grossly unfair, Rachel, though it does come from the right direction. Another case of opportunity missed, I fear.

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    2. I think it is out of five stars. The reviewer was as puzzled and bemused as you. He suggested the dance routine repeating itself may have been trying to say that the attack was rehearsed like the dance?? He didn't think it was saying it very successfully if indeed that was what it was saying.

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    3. Well, whatever it meant there's no doubt that if its purpose was to convey a 'message' it failed, and failed miserably. Truth is that even without this distraction the film would have been disappointingly inert anyway. At least this act (I hesitate to over-use the word 'dance', as it's not quite that) gives it an additional talking point, albeit one that doesn't do the film any credit.

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