Friday, January 23, 2015

Operation Thunderbolt

Mivtsa Yonatan; drama/ thriller, Israel, 1977; D: Menahem Golan, S: Yehoram Gaon, Gila Almagor, Assi Dayan, Klaus Kinski, Sybil Danning

On 27 June '76, the Air France passenger plane from Tel Aviv stops in Athens to board more passengers. But as it continues to Paris, four hijackers - two Palestinians and two members of the German extreme left, Wilfried and Brigitte - take over the plane and take it to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. While the foreign passengers were released, over 100 Israeli or Jewish passengers became hostages at the airport, with the consent of Idi Amin. The hijackers demanded that Israel release 46 convicted Palestinians, or else they will start shooting the hostages. After a lot of hesitation, the Israeli government authorized a secret rescue mission led by Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu. The Israeli army arrives at Entebbe at night and manages to free the hostages in a swift raid - 102 out of 106 of them were saved alive.

One of Menahem Golan's most famous films, "Operation Thunderbolt" is an appropriately well made and suspenseful film revolving around the eponymous rescue mission. Despite a few black and white solutions (for instance, Idi Amin is almost presented as a caricature), the film avoids bias or propaganda, instead focusing on trying to objectively tell the events as they happened, and even the hijackers Wilfried and Brigitte (cult actor Klaus Kinski and very good Sybil Danning) are not shown as typical bad guys. The unpleasant situation of hijackers taking over a flight full of passengers is strong, bitter and effective, especially contributing from the reaction of the passengers who find themselves in a plane converted into a flying concentration camp, without any fault of their own: one woman stabs herself and bleeds, in order to pretend that she is pregnant so that the hijackers would let her go, whereas one elderly Israeli man lifts his hand up to ask Brigitte is he can go to the toilet, thereby accidentally showing his Holocaust tattoo, making it awkward for both of them, which is done subtly. The second act, where the hostages are kept at the Entebbe airport, drags a bit and features too many empty walk, despite a few exceptions (Wilfried going berserk after he hears that hostages were given knives to use it for their lunch), leaving to wait for long until the finale sets in, the rescue mission, but it is great and worth the wait, giving a worthy conclusion to the film which is done just right to ignite the viewers' attention, without too much politicizing.


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