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There's a lot going on during the time period referenced in 7 Days in Entebbe. An airliner is taken by hijackers, the passengers are kept as hostages, the hijackers have to get along with each other in order to achieve their ends, a foreign government must decide what to do about it, a military must prepare for a potentially armed incursion, and if that wasn't enough, there's a modern dance recital taking place. That's a lot to keep track of, and the movie that tackles them all might have been better off had it tried to focus on a couple of these items instead of spinning so many plates at once.
7 Days in Entebbe opens with the hijacking of an Air France jet en route to Paris from Tel Aviv in June of 1974. Four people hijack the plane, a pair of Palestinian freedom fighters, and a pair of German revolutionaries (Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike) who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. While the Israeli government expects the plane to return to Tel Aviv to parade the hostages around Israel, the plane instead detours for Entebbe, Uganda, where a sympathetic Idi Amin houses the hostages in a disused portion of the Ugandan airport. The Palestinians want to see several of their compatriots released from jail in Israel, but Israel has an existing policy to not negotiate with terrorists, leading to a standoff that endangers the lives of over 200 hostages.
That should lead to a tense and dramatic thriller, but unfortunately, it doesn't. While the story is interesting and the actors all perform their jobs well, there's just something missing from the entire movie that prevents the story from being the roller coaster of emotions that it should be. This is not to say the movie isn't a roller coaster, just not the kind it wants to be.
It's clear that 7 Days in Entebbe has something important it wants to say, but the message gets lost in the constant shifting between multiple perspectives. There's the Israeli government, where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and Defense Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) debate the course of action which should be taken, considering a large portion of the hostages are Israeli citizens. There's the soldier in the Israeli military played by Ben Schnetzer through whose eyes we see the preparation for a military rescue, he's the one with the girlfriend with the dance recital he's going to miss if a rescue takes place (spoiler: he misses it). And then there's the Germans holding the hostages in Entebbe. They're the closest thing to "main characters" in the movie. The only portion of the movie outside of the titular 7 Days in Entebbe follows Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Bruhl and Pike) as they plot and prepare for the hijacking. It's clear why 7 Days wants to tell all these stories, they're all potentially compelling. The problem is that by trying to tell them all you can't get invested in any of them.
When you add in a tacit attempt at a hostage perspective, things get even more lost. A few of the hostages have lines, though none have names, but any scene that features a hostage never goes anywhere and feels like a diversion needed to pad out the runtime. It's a choice that seems odd since these were the people whose lives were really on the line, yet the movie treats them more like a plot device for the other characters to fight over rather than as actual people. Only at a couple brief points do you ever really feel like the hostages' lives might be in danger, which almost certainly wasn't the way the actual people felt at the time, and even that fear only exists for moments before moving on.
Bruhl and Pike are clearly the standouts as far as performances go. They anchor the film well enough for what they have to work with. The fact that a pair of Germans has taken so many Jewish people hostage is an irony not lost on these characters, and the fact that the Germans feel the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians mirrors some of the worst behavior of Germany is an interesting element that could have maybe made for its own movie. It's too bad that it didn't.
All of this culminates in a finale which feels like another missed opportunity. A big finish could have covered for a lot of the film's earlier problems, but the end feels as lackluster as everything else. It gets points for trying something different, but it just doesn't land as well as it wants to.
The events of 7 Days in Entebbe have been made into movies before, and they likely will again. This will be one of the many versions of the story that will be forgotten, even if the events the film portrays never are.