June 1976, and passengers are boarding an Air France jetliner, but not everyone there has a good reason for travelling, as some are terrorists. Ever since the Israelis were recognised by the United Nations in the late nineteen-forties as having a nation in the Middle East which they demanded after the horrors of the Second World War, there have been tensions between them and the Palestinians who used to live on the land they adopted, and wanted it back, which gave rise to tit for tat attacks that ebbed and flowed between attempts at a peace deal and outright aggression. These terrorists want Palestine recognised, and as the seventies progress endangering civilians is how they did it...
But of course, Palestine was not recognised no matter the amount of killings that went on both sides, and the tries at dealing with the situation by outside parties, and not a year goes by without Israeli soldiers quelling Palestinian revolts with violence, and Palestinians conducting their own campaign of bloodshed. With all that in mind, it was a brave production that had a go at a balanced view of the conflict and its attendant issues, which was what Brazilian director José Padilha and Scottish screenwriter Gregory Burke were aiming for. The result was a heap of opprobrium shovelled onto their heads as observers felt they were trying to sympathise with the attackers.
As those on the left with earnestly liberal views found, backing the Palestinians could also mean indirectly endorsing Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism as well, and those on the right supporting Israel had to deal with the brutality that government used to keep the Palestinians in line: indeed, it was a brave soul who attempted to untangle any kind of moral high ground from any of it. Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike were essaying the German terrorist roles, and they had a quagmire of issues to unpick themselves: by attacking Jews in Israel, were they not simply behaving much as the loathed Nazis had done in the Second World War which had brought about the crisis in the first place?
If you were anticipating an answer to that conundrum, to any of this really, you were in for disappointment as the film fumbled its apparently noble intentions to divine the reality of the situation by taking on either opponent on elevated terms. We saw the Israeli Government represented by Eddie Marsan doing a very strange Shimon Peres (maybe it was the makeup) and Lior Ashkenazi as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (a lot more human) as they wrestled with the constantly changing situation, which sees the Air France plane wind up in Entebbe as the guests of Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie - always a peach of a role, and he was ideal). As the threat that the hijackers may kill the hostages looms, the world holds its breath and Israel looks to a military solution that will eventually see many dead.
Padilha adopted a reserved, considered style to the drama, taking in the facts of the case as Burke's script depicted them and weighing up the implications, often at the expense of the excitement in what in real life had been extremely tension-filled. You could argue these were real lives at stake, so turning their plight into an action flick as Cannon had done with the eighties Chuck Norris vehicle Delta Force would have been in dreadfully bad taste, yet it was obvious many had come to this film expecting, nay, wanting to see terrorists get slaughtered in the name of freedom, and that was in no way what this project was about. Indeed, there was far more talk than action, turning over the matters of contention in its mind and allowing us to understand where both self-styled revolutionaries and intolerant authorities can go so badly wrong, though in an eccentric touch the climactic raid was intercut with a modern dance routine, which many balked at yet was actually a point of original thinking that made you reassess a sadly familiar tale. Whether you liked it or not was something else. Music by Rodrigo Amarante.
[Entertainment One's Blu-ray has a featurette as an extra.]