Operation Thunderbolt (Mivtsa Yonatan) (1977)

MENAHEM GOLAN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.  Israel, 1977.  Screenplay by Menahem Golan, , dialogue by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , Menahem Golan.  Music by .  Production Design by . Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1977.

The true-life hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris in 1976 is recounted in this hopelessly melodramatic but absorbing thriller. Political “freedom fighters” board a flight during its stop in Athens and hold the cabin crew and passengers hostage, demanding that the plane be rerouted to Uganda. Upon arrival they separate the Jewish passengers from the rest, allow the remainders to be given back to the authorities while they hold their selected group as prisoners and demand that Israel release terrorists in return for these lives. Israel’s army puts together a crack team of super gung-ho commando soldiers who stealthily enter Entebbe and take the bad guys down. There’s terrific dialogue and performances, but the really high intensity scenes are cartoonishly silly; the good guys who save the day at the end are filmed like they are part of a G.I. Joe episode and barely resemble real life, while the presentation of Idi Amin has much more to do with an SCTV spoof than whatever could have been learned from Barbet Schroeder’s documentary on the man that would have been already released. The bombastic musical score that accompanies the film’s highest moments is a bit of overkill, but it’s still a memorable drama.

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