An unextraordinary hostage “thriller” that does little to entertain.
Based on real-life events, José Padilha’s Entebbe tells the story of the Israeli hostage crisis in 1976 that made international news. What could have been an interesting interpretation of events, however, has little life in it, with the film failing to deliver on its exciting premise.
The film follows the events of the crisis, which involved a small group of hijackers, from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, taking over an Air France flight filled with Israeli passengers, taking them to Entebbe airport, Uganda. Among the hijackers are two German revolutionaries, Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike), who are charged with keeping the hostages at the airport until the Israeli government agrees to negotiate. However, as the deadline for talks draws nearer, tensions arise over what to do with the hostages whilst the government in Israel continue to debate over what action to take.
Despite its exciting, hostage-situation setup, Entebbe, unfortunately, misses the mark by sorely lacking in tension, as it never feels at any point that anyone is in immediate danger. For a film centred around a hostage crisis, this is a big problem, and it is mainly caused by the lack of focus in the story, with the plot constantly jumping from place to place. It also doesn’t help that there is no sense of urgency amongst any of the characters. Outside of the occasional authoritative shout, the hijackers remain incredibly calm considering the situation they’re in, as do the hostages who act more inconvenienced than imprisoned. This is also the case in Israel, where all of the government decisions are dully shown through men sitting in rooms discussing their options. Whilst this may be more accurate to the real-life events, it does little to dramatise what’s happening and makes the film a chore to watch.
The screenplay, too, is all over the place with the narrative often jarringly cutting either to the past, or to pointless side characters. Some of the dialogue, as well, feels very artificial, what could be meaningful character moments are mostly undermined by some very on-the-nose, clichéd lines that completely take you out of the film. Strange, also, is the use of humour, albeit sparse, in which the tone seems to shift from dire to light-hearted in an instant. This is made worse by Daniel Rezende’s editing with some poor decisions being made with regards to quickly cutting back and forth between different scenes to little effect, particularly in the film’s final act.
What the film lacks in substance it makes up for in visuals, however, with Entebbe being a great looking film, even if it’s not the best executed. Lula Carvalho’s cinematography is great throughout, particularly during the night-time sequences at the airport, where the limited lighting is used effectively. Great, also, is the 1970s setting, with everything from the costumes to the plane’s interior design feeling authentic.
The performances are generally good with Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike being believable in their roles and having a few enjoyable scenes together. Nonso Anozie is also great and brings a little charisma to a film that is crying out for some interesting characters. What’s disappointing is that, outside of brief conversations littered throughout, we never really delve into the real motivations of the hijackers. A little more backstory and character development would have gone a long way to making them more empathetic and help explain some of their decision-making later in the film.
Overall, Entebbe tells what could have been an exciting story in an unextraordinary fashion. Outside of the film’s visuals and some of the performances, poor editing, two-dimensional characters and lack of meaningful plot points make it one to miss.
Entebbe (2018), directed by José Padilha, is distributed in the UK by Entertainment One, certificate 12a.