Once, many moons ago in these hallowed pages, I had a simple plea: For someone, anyone, to take the story of Operation Entebbe and make a half-decent movie out of it. Operation Entebbe, aka Operation Thunderbolt, aka Operation We Should Option This For The Screen As Soon As We Get Back, was the daring rescue mission to scoop up 106 Israeli hostages from a Ugandan airport in 1976. The cast of characters included Yoni Netanyahu, Idi Amin, and a PFLP splinter group called the PLFP-EO, all of whom have been used in some truly terrible movies on the subject, which ranged from bland to melodramatic to casually racist. If Chuck Norris couldn’t do it in his version, who could?
But 7 Days In Entebbe, a new movie coming from José Padilha (who directed the excellent Elite Squad) focuses on the oft-overlooked element of the affair, the German Revolutionäre Zellen. Two of their founding members, Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfried Böse, worked with the PLFP to hijack the Air France flight and fly it to Uganda. Kuhlmann and Böse will be played by Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl who, between this and his turn as Friedrich Zoller in Inglorious Basterds, is building quite the resume of Jew-hating villains. He’ll be stepping into some big shoes here: Noted insane person Klaus Kinski played Böse in Operation Thunderbolt, the only watchable Entebbe movie to date (which happens to be on YouTube).
Besides the two leads, you can also catch Vincent Cassel, Jodorowksy’s son, and Lior Ashkenazi as Yitzhak Rabin, which rules. Hey, you might be saying, it seems like they got the creative part down, it should be a cinch from here. Au contraire! The 1976 attempt, Victory at Entebbe, had Anthony Hopkins, Kirk Douglass, Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor, Helen Hayes, and Linda Blair, and was as forgettable as could be.
So what can save 7 Days In Entebbe from the same fate? Padilha certainly has the action chops (check out his RoboCop remake–not bad!), but can he balance that with an appreciation for the technical skill that went into the planning of the raid? The last couple of movies spent much of their time away from the hijackers, but that isn’t the case here. Will that add anything substantial to our understanding of what happened? Then there are the obvious political elements: Revolutionäre Zellen was a Marxist revolutionary collective designated as a terrorist group by the German government, and many of its members stood by the Entebbe hijacking as anti-Zionist (though some broke with the group over the raid, seeing it as explicitly anti-Semitic). How will Padilha handle that?
Questions abound! There is only one certainty, and that is this: As as it the case any time there are Israelis in commercial art, lots of people will be very mad online.
Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.