The film 7 Days in Entebbe is a crime thriller based on the real-life story of the 1976 counter-terrorist hostage-rescue operation titled Operation Thunderbolt.
This is the fifth film to dramatise the events of the operation.
On June 27, 1976, four hijackers seized an Air France flight. The plane was on its way from Tel Aviv to Paris. The hijackers were two members of the PFLP (The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and two German members of the left-wing extremist group, Revolutionary Cells.
They held more than 100 hostages – mainly Israelis – for a whole week. Among other demands, they sought the release of 40 imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and combatants.
7 Days in Entebbe reconstructs what happened after the aircraft landed in Entebbe, Uganda where the hijackers were supported by the Ugandan leader at the time, Idi Amin Dada.
Based on new research, the film offers its own version of the hijacking, in particular with regard to the release of the non-Jewish hostages. At the same time, the film describes in minute detail the efforts of the Israeli government, whose security commandos eventually bring the hijacking to an end by force.
The film also features extensive footage of the Batsheva Dance Company, dancing to a modern version of the traditional Jewish song Echad Mi Yodea. The piece is choreographed by Ohad Naharin. One of the characters in the film is a dancer in the troupe and the dance is shown as the film opens and then throughout the film.
7 Days in Entebbe does its work to keep viewers in the loop, often at the risk of over explaining. It, interestingly, locates most of its dramatic scenes in the meeting rooms of the Israeli government as it navigates ways to deal with the crisis.
The film also tries to open itself up to dealing with the complexities of revolutionary acts versus terrorism, and because the filmmakers chose to be guided by David Saul’s account in the book, Operation Thunderbolt, it provides a slightly different historical account of the events. The main difference is that it gives less praise to Yonatan Netanyahu, older brother to current Israeli leader Benjamin, for his role in the rescue mission.
There’s also the tension between the Germans and their fear of being regarded as Nazis because of their decision to hold Jews hostage.
Once they’re in Uganda and they hand the operation over to their Palestinian counterparts, the tensions in this union are also explored in the scenes detailing clashes over how to proceed.
It also explores the conflict between Israel and Palestine, as well as how other members of the international community have had to take sides in the conflict over the years.
I enjoyed the dance scenes, even though I struggled at some points to connect this fictional addition to the historical event to the rest of the story. There’s also a love story subplot, but I suppose the film-makers are entitled to some artistic license.
All in all, 7 Days in Entebbe is a decent film and, even if historical reenactments are not your thing, it’s worth a watch because it provides an alternative narrative, something that is always important in the preservation of history.