Entebbe director José Padilha does good work in capturing the tension and ideological complexities of the Air France hijacking of 1976 – then throws it all away with a bewildering and indulgent final act
Entebbe (15) **
Redoubtable (15) **
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (15) ***
Anon (15) **
Sherlock Gnomes (U) *
Dramatising the notorious 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv that culminated in a week-long standoff between the Israeli government and Palestinian and German terrorists associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Entebbe – which takes its name from the Ugandan airport terminal where the siege took place – makes for an oddly unsatisfying drama given the high stakes involved. Ironically, that’s largely down to the way director José Padilha hijacks his own movie with some bizarre creative flourishes that destroy any tension in the final act. Before that, however, the film plays out as a well-acted, nuts-and-bolts docudrama, following the even-handed approach of Paul Greengrass’s United 93 and Captain Phillips, and overlapping in both subject matter and style with Uli Edel’s The Baader Meinhof Complex and Olivier Assayas’s epic Carlos. The script – by Scottish playwright-turned-screenwriter Gregory Burke (Black Watch, ’71) – does a decent job in this respect of laying out the complex realities of a situation in which all participants are, to some extent, prisoners of ideology, while at the same time attempting to give all sides their own point of view.
That said, the drama mostly focuses on the divisions within the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (played by Lior Ashkenazi) and his hawkish defence minister Shimon Perez (Eddie Marsan, face caked in distracting latex), and the complicated motivations of Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike), the bourgeois members of the Baader-Meinhof-affiliated Revolutionary Cells, whose sympathy for the people of Palestine is tied up with their own guilt and hatred of their homeland’s Nazi past. The latter leads to the glaring hypocrisy of Germans protesting fascism by holding Jews at gunpoint and there are some dramatically tense confrontations that unpick those contradictions in interesting ways, especially as their beliefs are challenged both by their Palestinian comrades and through their interactions with the hostages, among them Denis Ménochet’s Air France flight engineer. Brühl does some good work here as the wavering Böse, but Pike delivers the film’s stand-out performance, subtly conveying Kuhlmann’s mental dissolution as she continually pops amphetamines.
But back to that ending. Despite the solid work that’s gone into creating a credible account of the events, Padilha (who made the controversial Elite Squad movies and 2014’s rubbish RoboCop remake) chooses to dissipate the tension of the climactic Israeli commando raid by not only filming it in cheesy slow motion, but by intercutting it with an interpretative dance number – an ill judged creative whim that functions as a laboured metaphor about the need for all sides to take a leap of faith. It feels like a failure of nerve: a trite way of summing up the themes without saying anything of consequence. What a waste.
Revolutionary politics feature again in Redoubtable, a comedic biopic of sorts about Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel) that, coincidentally, features the moment he announced that “Jews are the new Nazis” during a student meeting in which the issue of Palestine was raised. This was near the start of his post-May 1968 rejection of the filmmaking establishment; a period in which his determination to respond to the increasing radicalisation of the world with increasingly radical cinematic experiments also coincided with his relationship with the late Anne Wiazemsky (played by Stacy Martin), his wife and muse whom he first cast in 1967’s La Chinoise, when she was 17 and he was pushing 40. Sadly, the film, which was adapted by The Artist’s Michel Hazanavicius from Wiazemsky’s autobiographical novel Un An Après, seems more interested in pastiching Godard’s own movies than saying anything interesting about the couple. In the end, it plays like the sort of thin comedy about creativity that Woody Allen (whose better films are also homaged here) regularly knocks out.
Much more fun is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, an endearingly silly and outré coming-of-age film from Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator John Cameron Mitchell about a trio of punk-obsessed teenagers, led by sensitive fanzine editor Enn (newcomer Alex Sharp), who stumble across a colony of cannibalistic pansexual aliens (among them Elle Fanning) in Croydon during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. Loosely adapted from a Neil Gaiman short story (and co-starring Nicole Kidman as a punk queen impresario called Boadicea), the film revels in its own shambolic style, turning the England of 1977 into a sort of queer-friendly fringe musical fantasia where anything goes.
Set in a future world where crime has been almost conquered by technology that creates a downloadable visual record of everything we see, sci-fi detective thriller Anon (the latest from Gattaca director Andrew Nicol) serves up a fairly glum amalgam of Strange Days and Minority Report. Clive Owen takes the lead as a grief-filled detective on the hunt for Amanda Seyfried’s off-the-grid hacker, who’s suspected of murdering clients whose misdemeanours she’s helped erase. The ideas are interesting; the execution isn’t
A belated sequel to 2011’s bizarrely successful Gnomeo & Juliette, Sherlock Gnomes continues the pun-based gnome gags of the first film by dropping garden variety versions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous characters (we get Sherlock, Watson and Moriarty) into a mirth-free adventure involving characters from the earlier movie. James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Mary J Blige, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Johnny Depp presumably picked up fat paycheques; ditto executive producer Elton John, whose songs once again fill the soundtrack. ■