Here then is yet another version of ENTEBBE - a political thriller based on real-life events when on June 27th 1976, an Air France flight en route from Tel Aviv to Paris (with 248 mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers on board) had been hijacked by terrorists. In this latest offering, Daniel Brühl, Rosamund Pike and Eddie Marsan feature.

The terrorists in question were two members of the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations’ and two members of the German ‘Revolutionary Cells’: Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl). Both had previously been recruited by German terrorist group ‘Red Army Faction’ (perhaps better known as the ‘Baader-Meinhof Gang’) though the group considered themselves to be freedom fighters rather then terrorists. Holding both passengers and crew hostage, the terrorists demanded not only a ransom of $5 Million for the actual plane but more importantly they demanded the release of 53 Palestinian and pro-Palestinian militants, 40 of whom were imprisoned in Israel.
The film chronicles the hijack shortly after take-off in Athens, Greece, followed by the flight’s diversion first to Benghazi in Libya, followed by the eventual landing at Entebbe airport in Uganda where megalomaniac President Id Amin (Nonso Anozie) offered his support to the terrorists by means of members of his own forces. The hijackers issued a declaration to the Israeli Government, threatening to shoot hostages (starting with children) from 1st July onward if their demands would not be met. During the negotiations, with Idi Amin visiting the hostages daily to keep them informed about the developments, the terrorists separated Israeli/Jewish passengers from non-Jewish passengers (the non-Israeli captives were released prior to the raid on Entebbe). After the Israeli government failed to secure a diplomatic and political solution at least they managed to pursue the terrorists to extend the deadline in the hostage situation, thus giving enough time for a military operation (speak: raid) on Entebbe airport to free the hostages by force with the additional help of East African Kenya.

This scenario alone should be enough to guarantee a political thriller that has you on the edge of your seat and sure enough, the performances deliver: both Pike and Brühl are perfect casting as the two German ‘freedom fighters’ whose idealism and almost naivety gets the better of them as the hostage situation reaches its ugly climax – via flashbacks we see how both started out as political underground fighters back in Germany, driven by a strong feel for justice and to fight the stigma of capitalist Germany complete with its tainted history of Nazi persecution. Of course, the irony here is that by hijacking a plane carrying predominantly Jewish passengers the two German terrorists repeated the deeply flawed history of their own country. “We are not Nazis, we are humanitarians!” explains an increasingly unnerved Wilfried Böse, while Kuhlmann explains that “her biggest fear is not fear of dying but a life without meaning”. However, as the situation at Entebbe slowly but surely spins out of control both find themselves increasingly at loggerheads with their much more hardcore Palestinian terrorist comrades. Pike btw manages a very convincing German accent.

Equally convincing are Eddie Marsan as Israeli Interim Prime Minister Shimon Perez, Lior Ashkenazi as then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Denis Ménochet as Air France airplane technician Jaques Le Moine (who gives Kuhlmann the advice that being a plumber might come in more handy than being a terrorist…).
The action of the film is somewhat curbed by a ‘subplot’ involving Israeli soldier Zeev Hirsch (Ben Schnetzer), who was one of the specialist soldiers/snipers participating in the military operation under Israeli Elite Commando Officer Yonathan Netanyahu (Angel Bonanni), and his strained relationship to dancer Patricia Martel (Andrea Deck). Speaking of, the film prominently features footage of the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company, performing a modern version to ‘Echad Mi Yodea’ – a traditional Jewish song sung on Passover with its main theme of physical freedom of a nation of slaves at the forefront. Although one can appreciate the symbolism and the parallels, the dance sequences distract more than they enhance the actual action… of which there is precious little until the last fifteen minutes or so of the film. That said, the insertion of archive footage from the actual freeing of the hostages plus newsflashes from the time make for a nice touch.

A thought-provoking film let down by missed opportunities. This remake won’t leave you gasping for air.