Raid on Entebbe, 1977.
Directed by Irvin Kershner.
Starring Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Yaphet Kotto, Jack Warden, Horst Buchholz, John Saxon, Sylvia Sidney, Robert Loggia and James Woods.
When a hijacked plane is diverted to Uganda’s Entebbe Airport with over a hundred Israeli passengers on board, the Israeli government authorises a top-secret military raid to free the hostages.
Not to be confused with 1976’s Victory at Entebbe – which also happens to feature a similarly impressive cast that includes Kirk Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster and Elizabeth Taylor – Raid on Entebbe is a Golden Globe-winning TV movie from The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner that recounts the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane travelling between Tel Aviv and Paris, and the subsequent counter-terrorist rescue mission carried out by members of the Israeli Defense Forces at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
After taking off from Athens for the second leg of its journey to Paris, Air France Flight 139 is hijacked in a joint terrorist operation between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells. After diverting to Libya, the plane is eventually offered sanctuary by Ugandan President Idi Amin, who senses an opportunity to gain international recognition by mediating a diplomatic solution. The terrorists free all but the Israeli hostages and use them as a bargaining chip to demand the release of fellow ‘revolutionaries’ imprisoned across the globe, leaving the Israeli government little choice but to plan an audacious rescue mission under the code-name Operation Thunderbolt.
Raid on Entebbe is really is a film of two halves, with the first part detailing the hijacking of the plane through to the hostages’ arrival in Uganda, and the second covering the Israeli Cabinet’s deliberations over how to proceed, along with the planning and execution of the eventual operation to free the captives. The film wastes precious little time getting started, throwing us right into the thick of the action and rarely letting up for the duration of its running time. At times it almost feels like we’re watching a documentary reconstruction of events, albeit one that includes veteran tough-guy Charles Bronson (Death Wish), Robert Loggia (Scarface), John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) and James Woods (Salvador) as IDF commandos, Hitchcock alumni Martin Balsam (Psycho) and Sylvia Sidney (Sabotage) as Israeli hostages and Peter Finch (Network) as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in what proved to be his final screen role.
For a made-for-television movie, Raid on Entebbe is a surprisingly solid effort – so much so that it received a theatrical release in several markets, including the UK. However, while it presents a taut, fast-paced and authentic re-enactment of the crisis, this sadly prevents us from really getting to know the characters, which is a shame considering the high calibre of acting talent involved. Nevertheless, it does feature a fine supporting performance from Yaphet Kotto (Alien) as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and if you have a particular interest in terrorism during the latter half of the 20th century – or you’ve enjoyed recent efforts such as The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008) and Carlos (2010) – then I’d recommend giving this a try.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film *** / Movie ***