7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE (José Padilha)

7 Days in Entebbe is to political thrillers what fellow 2018 releases 12 Strong is to war movies and what Den of Thieves is to cops-and-robbers yarns.

In other words: it’s tepidly-unremarkable entertainment, short on auteurial style, engaging substance, and a consistent alchemic tension between the two, nevertheless elevated by a crackerjack cast of perpetually under-seen faces, including a gaggle of non-American dignitaries who rarely grace wide releases.

There are sequences of style and words of substance, but they rarely coalescence to dynamically create the stuff of cinematic fireworks; instead, they exist apart, meaningfully commenting on each other periodically without thoroughly communicating throughout. Perhaps that’s an example of content dictating form, since the movie explores the nature of the communication-fraught relationship between Palestine and Israel through the title’s infamous 1976 Operation Entebbe. Even so, it doesn’t make for a compelling viewing experience.

The substance deficit is not caused by the movie’s largely nonjudgmental handling of the unavoidable politics rife in the aforementioned relationship. Though the filmmakers take a side by the conclusion, much of the duration is spent merely presenting the various, usually oppositional ideologies surrounding Israel and Palestine. Though properly engaging these beliefs along the way may have alienated those who hold different views, a lack of incisive probing simplifies the characters into mouthpieces for their ideologies instead of feeling like real people, failing to justify the movie’s distant, clinical tone. Cinematic competency often doesn’t necessarily entail sufficiently-observed truth, sapping how much we care about the characters and thus the proceedings.

A movie baldly discussing its ideas — AKA its substance — can be the least substantive way to deepen those ideas. Rather, merging them with a stylish approach adds layers to roam around in. The only traces of an artist’s personal style on display here are the narratively-tangential but thematically-resonant dance sequences, which convey the messy relationship between a rehearsal and an actual performance, on stage, in this movie, and on the real-life political stage of the movie. How much of our plans, both personal and political, can be precisely choreographed, and how much can’t avoid the inherent spontaneity of humanity? At the same time, art — specifically dance — can cross physical and language borders, requiring communicative collaboration to achieve cohesion, even if it looks violent and not particularly peaceful — a subtle statement regarding global relations. These musical interludes suggest the movie 7 Days in Entebbe could’ve been with a bit more of a novel approach.

Regarding its specific politics: yes, the violent, anti-diplomatic operation it depicts was successful, but would the situation that required such a raid ever have arisen in the first place with a bit more diplomacy? Some could argue peace isn’t possible between these two cultures, but do we really want to live in such a world? In any case, the movie seems to imply that Netanyahu’s mistreatment of Palestinians stems from the death of his brother; he blames them for shooting the gun, and doesn’t think about how to change their desire to pull the trigger. Plus, he learned here that such violent missions can be successful, diplomacy be damned.

To close, let’s return to my lede: which of the aforementioned three movies you enjoy most will probably depend on which of their genres you personally prefer.

My rankings: Den of Thieves > 12 Strong > 7 Days in Entebbe.

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