7 Days In Entebbe: From the terrorists' point of view

Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike play German left-wing revolutionaries in 7 Days In Entebbe.
Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike play German left-wing revolutionaries in 7 Days In Entebbe.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / THRILLER

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE (PG13)

107 minutes/Now showing/2.5 stars

The story: Based on the true story of the 1976 Israeli commando raid at Entebbe Airport, Uganda. The story picks up with the boarding of the Air France plane by the hijackers, a mix of Palestinians and two German left-wing revolutionaries, Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfred Bose (Daniel Bruhl). The hijacking triggers a response from the Israeli government, which considers a range of options before settling on the military one.

The Entebbe hostagecrisis has, almost immediately after it happened, spawned books, films and documentaries.

Re-creations and non-fiction films have tended to focus on the macho, military aspects of the event - in other words, the most visually interesting side of it.

The gunplay and military porn does not seem to interest Brazilian director Jose Padilha, which is odd, because his claim to fame is the very macho and bullet-strewn paramilitary crime procedural Elite Squad (2007) and its sequel. His Hollywood reboot, RoboCop (2014), did not lack for tough action either.

Here, the focus is on character - on both the terrorists and key players in the Israeli government. There is a bit of arthouse self-indulgence here in the intercutting of a modern Israeli dance piece with the hostage-taking action - the point Padilha is trying to make is fuzzy and after a while, the dance bits feel intrusive.

His films, however, tend to carry a note of subversion - the strike force cops that were the heroes in Elite Squad were corrupt, for example - and here, his act of unorthodoxy is to take the point of view of the German terrorists, Kuhlmann and Bose.

He humanises them and their idealism, an artistic decision that is the best part of a thriller without many thrills or much tension. Again, this is strange because the screenplay comes from the mind of Scottish writer Gregory Burke, who delivered the nail-bitingly tense Irish Troubles thriller, '71 (2014), about a soldier trying to stay alive after finding himself trapped in hostile territory.

The movie does a decent job laying out the choices - moral, political and military - facing the Israeli cabinet. British actor Eddie Marsan is especially effective as the droll, sagacious and hawkish defence minister Shimon Peres.

The film's study of the mind of the terrorists is an astute one, and it agrees with the current understanding of the radicalised mind: Extremists are not monsters, nor are they inhuman. They are friends, neighbours and relatives with a void in their souls, and are filling it with a cause they are willing to die for.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'From the terrorists' point of view'. Print Edition | Subscribe