[Screen It]


(2018) (Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl) (PG-13)

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Drama: After terrorists hijack an Air France flight bound for Paris from Tel Aviv and fly their hostages to Uganda, Israeli politicians and commandos plan a risky, long-range rescue mission.
It's 1976 and two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - External Operations along with two German revolutionaries, Brigitte Kuhlmann (ROSAMUND PIKE) and Wilfried Böse (DANIEL BRUHL), hijack Air France Flight 139 after boarding the Tel Aviv to Paris flight during a stopover in Athens. Along with the crew that includes flight engineer Jacques Le Moine (DENIS MENOCHET), the four hijackers have taken 248 passengers hostage -- the majority of which are Jewish and Israeli -- and fly them to Entebbe Airport in Uganda where dictator Idi Amin (NONSO ANOZIE) welcomes the terrorists and has them use a no-longer-used terminal to hold their captives.

Their demands are a multi-million dollar ransom along with the immediate release of 53 Palestinian and Pro-Palestinian militants. As Israel has a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (LIOR ASHKENAZI) finds himself in a difficult situation. While he believes peace must be brokered between Israelis and Palestinians in general, he knows he can't give in so easily while also realizing that no action could result in the murder of hundreds of innocent people.

While conferring with his cabinet that includes Defense Minister Shimon Peres (EDDIE MARSAN) along with General Motta Gur (MARK IVANIR) and others, Yitzhak contemplates the possibility of staging a rescue mission, something that would ultimately involve many Israeli soldiers, such as Ziv (BEN SCHNETZER) whose girlfriend, Sarah (ZINA ZINCHENKO), is a dancer. With the days passing by one by one, it's anyone's guess as to what the terrorists and Israeli government and military will ultimately do.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
With college basketball's March Madness upon us, lots of people will be distracted by the games and their standings in their bracket pools. I don't know if there are any drinking games related to how many times certain words or phrases are used during the broadcasts, but there's no denying certain b-ball terms, as is the case with certain other sports, are so ubiquitous in everyday speech one would have to watch their alcohol intake.

In the game and the rest of life, two of the terms most associated with the ease of doing something are layup and slam dunk. Yet, just as occurs on the court, those occasionally end up not going through the hoop, whether that's due to external obstacles or simply messing up in one's delivery, perhaps overestimating the effort and skills needed to ensure a score.

As related to the world of movies, some stories seem tailor-made for cinematic success and thus are sometimes referred to as slam dunks or layups, meaning they're a sure thing to work. The tale of Israeli commandos traveling thousands of miles from Israel to Uganda to free hostages previously hijacked by a quartet of pro-Palestinian terrorists in mid-flight would seem to fit the bill for such an easy score.

And if my four-decade-old memory serves me well from the less than critical age of 13, the TV movie based on that true event from the mid-1970s, "Raid on Entebbe," was just that. Airing just a year after the real-life incident, the film featured an all-star cast including the likes of Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, Yaphet Kotto, James Woods, and Robert Loggia. Truth be told, I could be confusing that with "Victory at Entebbe" that similarly had a big-name cast in Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Anthony Hopkins and aired a month earlier.

Whichever one it was, it left the impression on me way back when never to mess around with the Israeli military, and while they're just as effective in saving the day in "7 Days in Entebbe," I'm not sure they or most of the film will be memorable in 2058 or so. That is, beyond an uber-cool dance sequence that starts off the film with a bang. As opening text describes the setting of what's to unfold, we see a number of dancers seated in a semicircle of chairs who then go through violent spasms one by one in order of their seating arrangement as hypnotically dramatic music thunders away.

It's nothing short of mesmerizing to behold and seemingly sets the stage for a cinematic slam dunk of impressive drama to follow with a seemingly can't miss story that's told from three different viewpoints. The first involves the four terrorists who hijack Air France Flight 139 en route from Tel Aviv by way to Athens to Paris. Two are Palestinian and are barely personified, but the other two -- played by Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl -- are German revolutionaries who want to make a statement about their political views and demands.

And thus they redirect that flight to Uganda's Entebbe Airport where none other than Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie) greets and welcomes them and then mostly disappears for the rest of the pic. There are literally hundreds of hostages and a dozen or so crewmembers, but only the flight engineer (Denis Menochet) gets a notable screen presence.

At the same time and back in Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) is alerted to the breaking crisis and thus meets with his cabinet -- including Defense Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) -- as well as his military -- headed by General Motta Gur (Mark Ivanir) -- to figure out how best to resolve the situation, with conflicting opinions and strategies thrown about.

The third part, which gets the least screen time if my unofficial inner clock was anywhere close to accurate, focuses on one Israeli commando (Ben Schnetzer) who's likely to go on that rescue mission, thus leaving his dancer girlfriend (Zina Zinchenko) -- she of that opening artsy dance sequence that plays out later in the film, this time in a symbolic but somewhat clumsy juxtaposition with the actual raid -- back home.

The latter easily could have been jettisoned with no ill-effect, but the first two parts are definitely rife with potential and they and the overall film should have been an easy layup for writer Gregory Burke and director José Padilha. Alas, while they clearly don't embarrass themselves, they somehow prevent the film from being as exciting as the opening sequence teases.

Notwithstanding some flashback sequences that involve Pike and Bruhl's characters but don't really do much for the story or character exploration, the plot unfolds from day one to day seven but without much to engage or enthrall the viewer.

It simply plays out without much fanfare as you hear some political speeches about the state of Israeli and Palestinian relations and then wait for the raid to occur. Even that late in the game sequence, ready-made for high drama and action, comes off as lackluster, as if the filmmakers double-dribbled while handling the material.

While not entirely an airball, this is clearly a missed opportunity with material already tailor-made for a riveting, dramatic thriller. If not for the signature dance sequences "7 Days in Entebbe" would be altogether completely forgettable. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed March 8, 2018 / Posted March 16, 2018

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