Review: “Entebbe” Underwhelms Despite Promising Premise

Based on the true story of Operation Entebbe, a 1976 counter-terrorist hostage-rescue operation, RoboCop director José Padilha manages to turn a fascinating if tragic international flashpoint into a bizarrely dull affair.

EntebbeEntebbe is a film that promises to deliver a heartfelt drama-infused re-telling of the very real plane hijacking of 1976, and it fails, spectacularly.

Taking such a premise and managing to turn a tale of terrorism into a boring blur of guns and dance is something that doesn’t seem possible, but José Padilha’s misguided direction has somehow managed to achieve just that.

In the film’s defence, the opening credit sequence appears promising, the notion of the hijackers being both freedom fighters and terrorists offers the presence of a neutral observer, which is always good for a retelling of political chaos. The revolutionists are fighting fire with fire, but it becomes obvious the alternative is to burn anyway. Information is displayed whilst a somewhat chaotic and tension-building dance is ongoing which adds a unique creative flair; a flair that, however, soon becomes short lived.

The dance sequence could happily have stayed in the opening credits, but keeps making a reappearance at inappropriate times. We learn that one of the dancers has a boyfriend who is a soldier in the rescue mission sent to liberate the hostages, but that still doesn’t give us enough context as to why it is there. Ultimately distracting and almost inappropriate, the only scene with any real action (the ending) is harshly cut between gun fire and manic dance; bizarre and unneeded.

The film is split across seven days, which again is promising, but each day becomes as irritatingly boring as the last. Ultimately, everything about the film is disappointing. By day 3 I still wasn’t gripped. The hijack scene itself happened incredibly quickly. I was actually anti climatic, as if it had been thrown in as an extra thought despite being the basis for the entire plot.


There is no attempt at human connection to any of the characters which seems a strange decision in a film relating to a real life event and is perhaps what makes Entebbe so underwhelming. There are moments where I really tried to force sympathy, such as with a woman faking a miscarriage to be set free and a man informing a lady to remove her religious necklace informing the hijackers she was Jewish. But I needn’t have bothered; the humans were not in the film to be connected to or understood, it’s as if the victims of the hijack were props to drive a storyline that falls both flat and unexciting.

The only character who I felt I had some real likability towards was the plane engineer, Michel Bacos, played wonderfully by Brontis Jodorowsky, but in honesty he seems to disappear as the plot develops, and the only name I had for the character while watching was simply: The Plane Engineer.

There was a moment of sudden interest when the victims were separated based on their passport information but again this seemed to vanish almost as soon as it appeared. There were also some rather nice lines that had a chance of holding substance such as: “If you think you have no choice, you are a hostage too,” “I want to throw bombs into the consciousness of the masses,” “If we cannot negotiate this war will never end,” and “I only fear a life without meaning.” That being said, one or two nice lines of script writing does not a good movie make.

This is a film that could have been formed from the genuine suspense of a moment of terrorist history, but instead became a film of boredom and confusion, with its filmmaker coming across as naïve as the German revolutionists.

It is a shame Entebbe didn’t hit home as much as it could, and should, have done. With so much potential standing behind it, it’s disappointing that the film just didn’t deliver. Sadly, the main thing that will stay in my mind from watching a film I was very much looking forward too, is the bizarre dancing. It’s just completely out of place in a film about terrorism.

two stars, three stars, Top 10 Films

Written by Leah Jade Wimpenny

EntebbeDirected by: José Padilha
Written by: Gregory Burke
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer, Lior Ashkenazi
Released: 2018 / Genre: Crime Thriller
Country: USA/UK / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive

Top 10 Films reviewed Entebbe on DVD courtesy of Entertainment One. The film is out now on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray.

About the Author
Leah is a former student of film, media and culture studies and English literature at the University of Huddersfield. When not in uni or writing for magazines she is pulling pints in the local pub, drinking an excessive amount of tea or reading up on the latest philosophical theories.

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