Victory At Entebee (1976)

Director: Marvin J. Chomsky

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Anthony Hopkins, Linda Blair, Kirk Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor, Helen Hayes, Richard Dreyfuss, Helmut Berger

Written by: Ernest Kinoy

Running Time: 119 mins

Original Cert: A

Original US Release: 13th December 1976

Hollywood are always desperate to cash in and so when the PLO hijacked a plane filled with Isreali and Jewish passengers, landing at Entebee Airport and sparking off a military rescue, they were chomping at the bit. So much so that two films were made almost back-to-back, and jumped on the disaster movie bandwagon. Raid On Entebee had plenty of star names as did this made-for-TV production but rushing out a film based on actual events can harm the film…badly.

Air France plane leaving heading to Paris is taken over by the notorious PLO, led by German activists. They force the plane to land in Africa, in the dangerous and volatile Uganda, at Entebee Airport. There they meet President Idi Amin, who comes across all friendly but is at the centre of holding the mix of Jewish and French passengers hostage. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin finds himself in a tricky position. Refusing to negotiate with terrorists, his army tell him that three days is not long enough to come up with a military plan to get in and get the hostages out.

The events of this epic raid was highly publicised in 1976 and brought to the forefront the madman that was running Uganda, Idi Amin, a leader who thought he was all powerful and could hold the world to its knees due to his actions. The heroics of the Israeli army isn’t truly realised here as it is over glamourised and surprisingly short.

Shot on video, as it was made for TV but released in cinemas in the UK, this is a very flat and uninspiring production that comes across like a disaster movie than an important news story. Director Marvin J. Chomsky just points the camera and lets his actors do their stuff and no matter how strong the cast is, if the script and the direction isn’t there, then nothing is going to save it from being bland and dull.

We get long scenes of Prime Minister Rabin and his politicians sitting at a long table discussing what they are going to do. Then hostages crammed in a dull green room just, well, sitting around helpless, interrupted by the appearance of Idi Amin, all grins and wide eyes, telling them what a wonderful man he is but if the negotiations don’t work he will kill them all.

Finally, when the army do arrive, it’s a burst of gunfire and it’s all over. You then wonder why you had sat through nearly two hours of this to see the most unexciting rescue put to screen.

The cast try their best but they just come across as being earnest and melodramatic. Burt Lancaster tries to get a word in edge-ways in his scenes with Anthony Hopkins but Hopkins as Rabin had obviously been told he’s playing the Prime Minister so he would do that. Kirk Douglas and Elizabeth Taylor play the parents of one of the hostages and are hardly in the film while Exorcist star Linda Blair, playing the young girl, looks worried yet still she manages to pass around chocolates in a plane full of hijackers?

It lacks any real excitement or interest in events that were, at the time, shocking. You don’t feel any urgency or tension. It drags on and on and then once it concludes, we are given some post-film information about how many survivors and what happened to the kindly old lady who was removed after falling ill. This is all very matter-of-fact and it just feels like a film that was needed to cash in on the awful events that July.

2/5

Not available on DVD in the UK

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