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RAID ON ENTEBBE
DVD. Second Sight.

Raid on EntebbeThe 1976 Israeli operation to free a plane load of hostages being held captive by terrorists at Entebbe Airport in Uganda is arguably the most famous (successful) hostage rescue ever, and was a natural for the movie treatment – and indeed, movies were made with what today might seem like rather indecent haste. Raid on Entebbe was actually the second US TV movie based on the story (Victory at Entebbe preceded it) and both films were made within months of the event – this film aired on January 9th 1977 (it would play theatrically in the UK), even though the rescue only took place in June 1976; Victory at Entebbe aired in December ’76. A third film, Operation Thunderbolt was made in Israel in 1977.

Given the rush job, Raid on Entebbe is a surprisingly impressive film. Directed by Irving Kershner and with a big name / familiar face cast – Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, James Woods, Martin Balsam, John Saxon, Yaphet Kotto, Eddie Constantine – this 140 minute movie doesn’t feel like the hurried cash-in in must have been.

The film doesn’t waste any time – the Air France hijacking takes place within the first five minutes, and the opening half of the film concentrates on the passengers and the terrorists, as they fly first to Libya and then on to Uganda, where the notoriously psychotic ‘President for Life’ Idi Amin (a show-stopping performance from Yaphet Kotto) uses the event for his own purpose, colluding with the terrorists while show boating for the world’s media and pretending to be a diplomat. Meanwhile, the Israeli government argue about whether or not to negotiate while preparing the commando raid that eventually freed most of the hostages.

Raid on EntebbeAny film based on a true story like this is going to struggle for tension – after all, we know what happens at the end – so it’s to Kerschner’s credit that he managed to make this so dramatically involving. The initial hijacking and the climatic commando raid are impressively tense and spectacular, and in the great Seventies tradition, the film avoids being too flashy, instead taking a realistic and deliberate route – imagine this made a decade later in the era of Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris! Of course, given how quickly this went into production, there’s plenty of dramatic license, and a few disaster-movie moments of bathos – but on the whole, this is impressively gripping stuff with solid performances from the leads – even Bronson, not known for his dramatic range. And production wise, other than the giveaway fades to black for ad breaks, this doesn’t feel much like a TV production.

If you are the sort of person who just can’t stomach the thought of a film that shows the Israeli military in a positive light, then this isn’t for you. But more open-minded, less politically fixated viewers will find this well worth a look.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

 

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