ARRSE Rating
0.5 Mushroom Heads
Sometimes you want to reach into the screen of what could have been a great movie, hook your arm back behind the camera, grip the trachea of the director and just squeeze.

I went along to my local cinema this weekend to catch the new “Entebbe”, a fresh take on the Israeli rescue of hostages from Idi Amin’s Uganda in 1976. Starring Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl (who played Niki Lauda in Rush) as ex-members of the Bahder-Meinhoff Gang, and a host of lesser known actors in other central roles, this film has the potential to be many things – a great war movie, a taut political thriller, or an emotionally complex work detailing the interplay between hostage and hijackers. Somehow it misses these obvious and substantial targets completely, ending up as a dull collection of leaden conversations interspersed with lengthy montages of interpretive fcuking dance. Honestly, I’m not making this up; large chunks of the movie are dedicated to repetition of a single dance routine (with a shaky link into the plot that one of the dancers is going out with an Israeli commando).

All the ingredients are readily available. As a historic event this really does have it all: a seminal moment in the west’s dealing with terror, massive political pressure; recognisably evil foes, involvement of one of the 20th century’s most entertainingly and insanely awful despots, buckets of courage, tragedy, a seemingly million-to-one shot plan executed with elan akin to Princes Gate in terms of its spectacular resolution, and an unequivocal victory. It really must take a concerted effort to take this level of natural drama and make such a boring film.

The Director took the “bold” decision to make the German terrorists the central characters, using a series of flashbacks detailing their involvement in the planning and preparation of the hijack. Whilst the characters of the Palestinian PFLP terrorists are very two dimensional, the two Europeans’ characters are given much more depth. However, this is done in such a way that the viewer has no emotional investment in them (understandable as they’re terrorists wedded to a barking belief system). There is a fair amount of time given to their agonising about whether they should be involved or not, this isn’t framed morally but ideologically. Ultimately the viewer ends the film not giving a damn about them; so why make them the central characters?

At the same time the portrayal of the Israeli cabinet members is extremely ambivalent at best and at worst stops just short of being actively hostile. The director appears to have selected Ariel Sharon (then Defence Minister) as the film’s real villain; his portrayal gives the impression of an immoral man just itching to drop Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in it no matter what the outcome. Rabin is shown as a weak and vacillating man, who is manipulated into ordering the raid. The dialogue is at times painfully tedious; repetitively stating the bleeding obvious doesn’t make for great drama.

The Israeli commandos are bit-players; there’s more character development of the dancer girlfriend than there is of her officer boyfriend., and virtually none of any of the other soldiers. This comes across as a conscious effort to give moral equivalence between the terrorists and the state of Israel; whilst there are many who feel that might be the case between Palestine and Israel, it’s a bit of a stretch to do the same for murderous German and Palestinian hijackers.

Idi Amin appears three times in short cameos most notable for their overacting; in fact Lenny Henry booming “Katanga my friends!” would have been both more compelling and more believable.

There’s no drama in the portrayal of the events which in real life were so riveting. The raid on the airport is covered in about five minutes (intercut with a troupe of dancers shouting and leaping about far more dramatically than soldiers, terrorists or hostages) and is shot so unimaginatively that there’s no real tension, or feeling of urgency. It’s like making a film about D-Day and not bothering to cover the landings, instead concentrating on some German supply clerk who doesn’t do anything and feels a bit doubtful about the whole enterprise, before being hit by a slow moving truck. Not forgetting his girlfriend in the Folies Bergeres, obviously.

The only Israeli military casualty of the raid was the commando leader Major Yonatan Netanyahu (who is portrayed as yet another cardboard cut-out commando). At the end of the film as his body is taken from the plane, a caption flashes up saying “the following year his brother Benjamin Netanyahu entered Israeli politics” presumably showing the ultimate tragedy and futility of his actions having the effect of starting the present leader of Israel (who the director obviously disapproves of as all right thinking people should) on the road to power. And that's the central problem: this movie is struggling with having to show Israelis as the heroes when everyone knows that they're the natural baddies these days.

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Dull, preachy and unengaging, this is a movie that should have been made by someone else; in fact anyone else. The 1977 made for TV movie "Raid on Entebbe" was far superior; 0.5 mushroom heads is generous for this festering pile of poo.
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