You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

José Padilha's true-story hijacking tale, starring Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike, remains on the ground throughout.

Jose Padilha
Daniel Brühl, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan, Lior Ashkenazi, Denis Menochet, Ben Schnetzer, Nonso Anozie.

1 hour 47 minutes

The word “fascist” is bandied around a lot in José Padilha’s recreation of the 1976 hijacking of Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris. Two of the hijackers are German revolutionaries, and they know that they’ll be seen as fascists on a par with Nazis, for holding a planeload of Jewish people at gunpoint. But they in turn accuse the Israeli regime of being the “real” fascists, for their treatment of the Palestinians to whose cause they have rallied. And they don’t spare the F-word in relation to their own government either: “It’s the same people still in power now,” says Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl), “the same fascists!” Like any word, no matter how loaded, that is repeated too often, it soon starts to sound meaningless — an accurate reflection of the dulling effect of the curiously unthrilling “7 Days in Entebbe.”

The low-boil drama begins when Wilfried and fellow Revolutionary Cell member Brigitte (Rosamund Pike) calmly unpack several guns from their carry-on luggage and along with two Palestinians, take control of the plane. After a refueling stop in Yemen, they force the plane to Entebbe, Uganda, and bring the 250-plus hostages, including some 84 Israelis and the Air France crew (Dennis Menochet is perhaps the performance MVP as the flight engineer), into a sealed-off area of the terminal building. There, they await word from the Israeli authorities on whether they are willing, contrary to their stated policy, to negotiate the release of their citizens.

They are met by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie), who also agrees to a kind of go-between role in the talks. And it’s a shame that not more is made of the notorious Amin brokering negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, because it’s about as insane a notion as dogs and cats coming to the talks table and having, well, Idi Amin preside. Unfortunately, here, with only a couple of colorful scenes, Amin’s outsize personality almost comes across as comic relief, especially in comparison to the uniformly dour hijackers (make the most of the Daniel Brühl’s joke, it’s the only one you’ll get.)

Surprisingly, the most involving dramatic strand is not with the imperiled innocent families and their gun-toting captors, but inside the chambers of government in Israel. Here, Defense Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan in peculiar eyebrows), the wily opportunist, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (an impressive Lior Ashkenazi), the conflicted pragmatist, each try to secure the hostages’ release, but in a manner that will gain them personally the maximum political advantage. Though the film does culminate in an action scene of sorts, in the shape of the risky, but famously successful raid by Israeli commandos on the airport compound, it is the machinations between Rabin and Peres that make for the most compelling drama.

Padilha’s sole stroke of inspiration elsewhere is in the use of a remarkable piece of dance theater, performed by Batsheva Dance Company and choreographed by Ohad Naharin. Its narrative inclusion is tenuously justified by one of the dancers being the girlfriend of Ben Schnetzer’s idealistic Israeli commando (saddled with one of the scripts most eyeroll-inducing lines: “I fight so you can dance!”) But mostly, the dance piece is used as a cross-cutting, tension-building device, à la “The Godfather.” As such, it doesn’t really work: Every time we cut to the stage, with its dramatic semi-circle of dancers flinging themselves around with grace and dynamism, it’s a wrench to leave it again to go back to the stasis of the airport holding room, or the Israeli government chambers.

A distinct air of staleness permeates the whole enterprise — even the palette is brown as an old biscuit, and Rodrigo Amarante’s minimal score is so politely low in the mix that it’s hardly even there. Brühl brings his usual earnestness to a role that’s already too earnest, and a shark-eyed Pike somehow fares even worse, with a flashback love interest doing little to add color to her waxen character. She is also cursed with the film’s very worst scene where she wanders in a daze into the airport terminal, and phones her boyfriend long-distance, monologuing somnolently into a broken payphone.

After 2008’s Golden Bear-winning “Elite Squad,” its sequel “Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within” and the 2014 remake of Paul Verhoeven’s authoritarian policing classic, “RoboCop,” Padilha himself has been no stranger to the term “fascism” over his career. But here, he pulls his punches to an enervating degree, somewhat timorously locating the majority of the film’s actual conflict within the individual factions, as opposed to between them. So instead of any more provocative (and potentially illuminating) ideological divide, the film’s axis of sympathy runs between those who are willing to kill (or let-be-killed) for their principles, and those who are not. It’s an ingenious way of avoiding the political landmines that dot this contested territory, but it also makes it easy not to care.

Berlin Film Review: '7 Days in Entebbe'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Out of Competition), Feb. 18, 2018. Running Time: 107 MIN.

Production: (U.S.-U.K.) A Focus Features release of a Participant Media presentation of a Working Title Films production. (International sales: Lionsgate International, London.) Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kate Solomon, Michelle Wright, Ron Halpern. Executive Producers: Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Olivier Courson, Jean-Claude Darmon, Angela Morrison, Jo Burn, Liza Chasin.

Crew: Director: José Padilha. Screenplay: Gregory Burke. Camera (color): Lula Carvalho. Editor: Daniel Rezende. Music: Rodrigo Amarante.

With: Daniel Brühl, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan, Lior Ashkenazi, Denis Menochet, Ben Schnetzer, Nonso Anozie.

More Film

  • Nordic Film Market: New Pálmason, Hákonarson,

    Nordic Film Market Selects Latest Palmason, Hakonarson, Hafstrom, Ganslandt

    The 20th Nordic Film Market in Göteborg, unspooling Jan. 31-Feb 3, will showcase 16 works in progress including Hlynur Pálmason’s “A White, White Day”, Grímur Hákonarson’s “The County”, Mikael Håfström’s “The Perfect Patient” and Jesper Ganslandt’s “438 Days.” Iceland is well represented this year with top directors and festival darlings Pálmason (“Winter Brothers”), Hákonarson (“Rams”) [...]

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

  • Bruce Tufeld Dead: Hollywood Agent and

    Hollywood Agent and Manager Bruce Tufeld Dies at 66

    Bruce Tufeld, a Hollywood agent and manager who once repped stars like Rob Lowe, Laura Dern, and Kelsey Grammer, died Tuesday in Los Angeles as a result of complications from liver cancer. He was 66. The son of respected television announcer Richard “Dick” Tufeld and Adrienne Tufeld, Bruce began his career as an assistant at ICM [...]

  • Bruce Dern

    Film News Roundup: Bruce Dern's 'The Lears' Bought by Vertical for February Release

    In today’s film news roundup, Bruce Dern’s “The Lears” and “Angels Are Made of Light” are acquired, Cold War drama “Stanley Cage” is launched and a documentary about Madonna’s early music career gets a release. ACQUISITIONS More Reviews Film Review: 'All These Small Moments' TV Review: HBO's 'Brexit' Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights [...]

  • Octavia Spencer Bryce Dallas Howard

    Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard to Reunite for Comedy 'Fairy Tale Ending'

    Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard will reunite for the ensemble comedy “Fairy Tale Ending.” Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown) and Tracy McMillan (“Marvel’s Runaways”) are writing the screenplay. More Reviews Film Review: 'All These Small Moments' TV Review: HBO's 'Brexit' Howard will also produce the Universal movie through her Nine Muses Entertainment alongside [...]

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content