Entebbe (or ‘7 Days in Entebbe’ for readers outside the UK), directed by José Padilha, could have very easily been simple and plain in its execution, but surprisingly ended up being an engaging film that held my interest throughout. I think in large part because of the reasonably large and well-developed set of characters that the film offers/explores; Entebbe was a film that I was eager to keep watching. It isn’t a film that necessarily does anything outstanding, but it does take a very simple story and make it into something more than what it could have been. So, let’s find our way into the review and see if this is a film worth your time, shall we.
Based on the true story, Entebbe follows the events of a 1967 hijacking of an Air France flight in which revolutionists/terrorists (depending on how you look at it) sought to force Israel’s hand and get them to release Palestinian prisoners. It was a standoff that lasted for nearly 7-days, and it was all centred around an airport in Entebbe, Uganda. As tensions run ever higher and political discussions seem to lead nowhere, the worst for the Jewish prisoners in particular, seems inevitable.
I feel that usually when it comes to films that are attempting to tell the story of a real-life event, they will often approach telling that story in one of two ways: Either they will focus heavily on the events; going to great effort to give a detailed account of what happened. Or they will take some liberties with what happened and instead put characters first and have their individual stories be our window into what happened. Entebbe is very much the latter and I think it benefits greatly from that.
I’m someone who loves a well-developed, compelling character. Almost always, it is the attribute of a film that I gravitate towards most. So, I was pleasantly surprised and thankful for not only the amount of interesting characters that were on offer in Entebbe, but how well-handled so many of them were – not necessarily in the depth of the characters but in the external pressures put upon them and how they react to them; giving a better sense of the type of people they are.
It is through the many characters on-screen and the internal and of course external conflicts that they deal with, that we learn and understand much of what happened during the hijacking incident in Entebbe. This for me made for a very engaging experience, as learning about various individuals; building out my understanding of who each person was, what their part in the larger situation was and what would become of them, was for me a smart way of getting me to care about what was happening – because if you don’t have anyone to care about or be interested by, then there’s very little that’s going to hold your attention. I’m firmly of the opinion that the events alone in this film are not compelling enough to keep you interested in this film and it needed a revolving door of contributing characters to keep it interesting.
And so, because we learn through the struggles of the characters, it means that individuals who would easily fade into the background in a conventional telling of events, instead have the opportunity to standout and stick around in your memory. A Perfect example of this is Defence Minister, Shimon Peres – played by Eddie Marsan – who is a man who simply wants to assault the airport and get things cleaned up as quickly as possible. This is a character who could very easily just be there to service the plot and keep things moving, but an unnerving performance by Eddie Marsan saw the character being someone who I was intrigued to see more of – to learn more of. Now the film of course didn’t give me that (not to the extent I would have liked or was expecting) but because Marsan was given the chance to portray him in an interesting way, and there seemed to be more to him than just a politician, he was a character that fed into the larger pool of people I was compelled to see more of. And I feel he’s a great example to my point that Entebbe is a film that put characters first, which resulted in a more fleshed out feeling experience. He is also only one example of a selection of characters who are given the opportunity to be fleshed out into more than just set dressing.
But it was Wilfried Böse – played by Daniel Brühl – who I was really interested by. He is technically an antagonist. He played his part in the hijacking and he went onto hold those people hostage alongside the other hijackers. But… there was a level of doubt within him; moments of hesitation or kindness that made him someone I was eager to see more of. In his eyes what he was doing was right; it was a necessary action for a positive outcome. Characters like that are always the most interesting – the ones who skirt the line between good and bad. He became someone I began to gravitate towards; who I was interested to listen to and try to understand his point of view. And I also began to sympathise with him slightly, because I knew the outcome of what happened in Entebbe. Brühl did an excellent job of balancing the inner conflicts of the character and portrayed someone who was a very interesting central character.
It was genuinely surprising to me how varied and well-handled the selection of characters were, and how much they fed into me being so engaged by this film. But, with such a focus on characters it does mean that the specifics of the moment-to-moment details surrounding the events did get slightly lost. There one-or-two occasions where I felt I didn’t have a full grasp on how certain things were playing out and more than once did it feel like the film was glossing over necessary information and moments – particularly when large groups of hostages would be released, and it felt like something that came out of nowhere. Some better communicating of what was happening was certainly something the film could have done better.
But I want to praise the director, José Padilha for putting together this film in a way that I think elevated it from something that could have been simple and forgettable, into something that left me genuinely surprised. There were particular structuring and presentational decisions in this film that I think helped to bring a stylistic tone, that brought the film up to a different level – and the film’s cinematographer, Lula Carvalho, who I think offered a richly dynamic looking film, played a crucial part in that. He was also helped by the fact that the production designer, Kave Quinn and her team did a fantastic job of capturing the aesthetic tone of the time period and delivering a film that more than looked the part.
I went into Entebbe with very low expectation. The trailer didn’t capture my attention and I was fully expecting another basic historical film. So, leaving the cinema, I was more than surprised at the memorable and engaging experience I had just been a part of. Yes, you could say that because the film blew well past my expectation that I’m being a little to hyperbolic in my liking of it, but for me, I just thought it was a good film that I enjoyed seeing.
And so, because of that, I am going to recommend, Entebbe. The film doesn’t do anything new or ground breaking. The film isn’t going to leave a permanent mark on your memory, but it is a solid, well made film that I think is worth seeing.
I’m really interested to know you thoughts on the film and my review of it. So please, leave any opinions or feedback you may have, in the comments section down below. If you liked what you read, may I suggest following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – as it will help to grow what I’m doing here. But I’ll bring my ramblings to a close now by saying a heartfelt thank you to you for dedicating some of your time to reading my work. I truly do appreciate it!