Sunday 20 May 2018

Entebbe by Gregory Burke and José Padilha

Entebbe — known in America as Seven Days in Entebbe — tells the true story of the hijacking of an Air France passenger jet in 1976 by supporters of the Palestinian Liberation Front. 

The plane full of hostages is then flown to Entebbe, the capital of Uganda, a country at the time ruled by the murderous madman, Idi Amin, who gave sanctuary to the hijackers.

A large cohort of the passengers were Israelis returning to their country. And (spoiler for those who don't know their history) the Israeli military staged an astonishing rescue operation.

These dramatic events were turned into at least three movies within a year of taking place, and now they have been filmed again

I'm not sure any movie has ever been quite so overtaken by current events, though. As Entebbe hits our screens the news is full of reports of Israeli soldiers killing dozens of apparently peaceful Palestinian protesters.

And the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is all over the media complacently insisting that no wrong has been done...

However, as difficult as it is, let's try and set this all aside and just judge the film Entebbe on its own (considerable) merits. 

I was just knocked out by Entebbe. I expected it to be a fairly gripping account of compelling real life events. But it goes way beyond that. 

It is, in fact, a genuine work of art.

The story it tells has three focal points. The hostages, the hijackers, and the Israeli government agonising over how to respond. 

All are given equal weight, and all feature wonderful actors – notably Eddie Marsan as Shimon Peres, then prime minister of Israel, and Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike as two of the hijackers, Böse and Brigitte.

The treatment of Böse and Brigitte in the film is frankly amazing. We care about them and sympathise with them — and yet when they are shot at the end, we welcome their violent demise. 

This will give you some idea of the complexity of this narrative, and how brilliantly it it is handled in Entebbe.

The superb screenplay is by Gregory Burke, a Scots playwright whose previous film script, '71, about a soldier dangerously stranded in the troubles in Northern Ireland, was a modern classic.

And the film is directed by José Padilha, who did the interesting 2014 Robocop remake and has recently been working on the TV series Narcos.

Now, I don't normally credit the directors in the title of these blog posts — film directors get way too much credit already, and screenwriters not enough. But in this case I think Padilha deserves equal billing.

Entebbe begins with sequences of a modern dance troupe, and throughout the action of the movie is intercut with the dancers.

The justification for this is that one of the soldiers, played by Ben Schnetzer, has a girlfriend who is a dancer, played by Andrea Deck (both excellent).

Now I'm aware that not only is this very tenuous, but it sounds like the most pretentious thing in the world.

And it could — and perhaps should have been — but it was actually stunningly effective.

That's what I meant about Entebbe being a real work of art. Both the screenwriter and the director are bringing great creative energy to bear here, and it all works beautifully to fashion something quite profound.

And the film carries a real punch at the end, which again resonates with events unfolding in the real world. Captions on the screen explain how almost all the hostages were rescued safely, and only one of the Israeli soldiers were killed.

His name was Yonatan Netanyahu. And his brother is Benjamin...

I know that summer is here and the weather may well be glorious wherever you are. But I urge you to spend a couple of hours in a darkened cinema with this amazing film. I don't think you will regret it.
(Image credits: only four posters available at Imp Awards.)

No comments:

Post a Comment