The hijacking of a 1976 Air France flight from Paris to Tel Aviv should have been natural directing material for the bold and violent allusions of Narcos director Jose Padilha. Couple that with a – usually – strong and nuanced central performance from Daniel Bruhl, and you should have a recipe for box office success. Sadly, Entebbe really fails to hit the mark on several key points. It’s not a bad film … It’s just okay, which really shouldn’t be the case.
The film opens with a title card explaining that Israel was recognised by the UN in 1947 and had been involved with various conflicts over land ever since. It’s also the first case of interpretative dance being utilised, although the meaning doesn’t become clear until virtually the very end of the film.
Bruhl stars as Wilfried Bose, a self-proclaimed German revolutionary who has aligned himself to the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine. Along with Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike, who seems to be on a crusade to confirm her status as a terrible actress), he agrees to hijack a plane in order to secure the release of Palestinians (terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on your perspective) from Israeli prisons.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister (Lior Ashkenazi) and his cabinet, including Eddie Marsan and Shimon Peres, are constantly at loggerheads with each other as to the best way to move the country forward peacefully. The hostage negotiation situation really pushes their convictions to the limit.
At least, it’s supposed to. The problem with Entebbe is that the film is really devoid of any sense of urgency. Not even the calendar reminders of how far into the hostage situation we are helps to drive the film forward. The endless cabinet negotiations become quite dry once you notice that the same few sentences and tactics are mentioned on loop.
More than that, the dialogue – and blame surely lies with Gregory Burke here – doesn’t feel natural. I’m not sure real people, no matter how dramatic or tense the situation, speak like they’ve swallowed a political thesis. The flashbacks as to when Bruhl and Pike first met are particularly jarring, as they recite huge chunks of humanitarian ethics.
You don’t get to truly know any of the characters or feel their passion for the cause – on either side of the hijacking. So you’re then stuck with a cast of about 10 main characters of whom you know nothing of and therefore care nothing about.
Pike’s accent is quite terrible, and shows up as especially bad next to Bruhl. At times, Marsan sounds like he’s chewing on a crude Fagin impression. Tonally, the whole thing feels all over the place as Padilha decants from serious political discourse to daring raids to interpretative dance. It never feels as exciting or detailed as it could.
The dance sequences have really not gone down well with critics either. For whatever reason, Padilha has decided to splice the military operation to rescue hostages with a contemporary movement piece. Some people don’t get it, others just don’t like it. I kind of felt like it worked, and I liked the accompanying soundtrack, but I wouldn’t go overboard on the compliments.
Entebbe is a real mixed bag of dialogue, pacing and tone. It’s definitely not the character driven, tense piece of cinema that it could have been.