It’s 1976 and Bose (Bruhl) and Brigette (Pike) are members of the underground German outfit Revolutionary Cells. Together with PLFP soldiers they hijack a plane destined for France that’s full of Israeli passengers in the hope it will draw attention to the Palestinian cause. Landing at Entebbe airport in Uganda they are protected somewhat by Idi Amin (Anozie) while back in Tel Aviv hardliner Shimon Peres (Marsan) pushes the reluctant Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) to launch a rescue mission…
Director José Padilha (Elite Squad, Robocop) does a fine job juggling the multiple storylines that make up this engaging thriller. Knowing that once the tension of the hijack is over it’s just a waiting game at the abandoned Entebbe terminal, which doesn’t exactly put one on the edge of one’s seat, he takes the viewer’s attention to Tel Aviv where the real magic of the movie happens.
The forever excellent Eddie Marsan excels in the role of the no-nonsense Shimon, pushing his Prime Minister into action he doesn’t want to take: “Israel does not negotiate with terrorists” he constantly reminds Rabin. Coming up with different scenarios for a rescue mission, coldly doing the numbers on potential civilian casualties, the decision is amazingly a mathematical one. After that it’s down to exercises with young soldier Netanyahu, who would later be Prime Minister, worried that time away from his dancer girlfriend will be detrimental to their relationship.
With ’71 on his CV writer Gregory Burke has a history of historical dramas that refuses to take sides with everyone getting their voices heard. The Revolutionary Cells members argue amongst themselves as to the validity of this mission, while the PLFP soldiers point out that while Bose and Brigette play at being revolutionaries they have no choice as their world is slowly eaten away. Meanwhile French co-pilot (Denis Menochet, Custody) is at pains to show that Bose could put his life towards a more useful end as he corrects the drainage issue at the terminal, something Bose is clueless at. Burke cleverly works in the history of underground German movements and their goals into the dialogue without it every feeling like exposition.
The rescue mission ending is fumbled, however. It’s not Munich levels of awful (one of the worst endings of a film) but a let-down. All the same this tidy political thriller should appeal to those who enjoyed The Baader-Meinhof Complex and Carlos.