Menahem Golan – Mivtsa Yonatan aka Entebbe: Operation Thunderbolt (1977)


Plot Outline :
In July 1976, an Air France flight from Tel-Aviv to Paris via Athens was hijacked and forced to land in Entebbe, Uganda. The Jewish passengers were separated and held hostage in demand to release many terrorists held in Israeli prisons. After much debate, the Israeli government sent an elite commando unit to raid the airfield and release the hostages. The film is based on the true facts and follows the events since the flight’s takeoff and until the hostages’ return to Israel.

Kult-Movies Review :
In 1977, the US and Canada hastily put out two films detailing the almost unbelievable Israeli hostage rescue mission at the Ugandan Entebbe airport in 1976. These two star-laden epics were Victory at Entebbe (with Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burt Lancaster) and the much better Raid on Entebbe (with Charles Bronson, John Saxon, and James Woods). The Israeli government was none-too-satisfied with either of these films, and hence put the stamp of approval on a mega-budgeted project headed up by Israel’s star director Menehem Golan, who later went on to create the Golan-Globus/Cannon Group, which funded such films as The Barbarians, The Assisi Underground, The Seven Magnificent Gladiators, and Hercules, among many, many others.

Basically the plot is the same as the other two films, though it does focus a lot more on the airplane hijacking and less on the strategy of the Israeli military. Some Palestinian terrorists take over an Air France jetliner and force it to land in Entebbe, Uganda, where the sympathetic dictator allows the terrorists to hold the 100+ Jewish hostages until the Israeli government releases several terrorists from prison. Of course, the Israeli government is not in the mood to mess around, and quickly puts together a complicated and daring night-time raid on the airport in which they saved almost all of the hostages and killed all 12 terrorists as well as an untold number of Ugandan soldiers.

Using the same airport set as Raid on Entebbe, Operation Thunderbolt outshines the other films with its absolutely intense build-up and fast-paced action scenes. In addition to several well-known Israeli actors, Operation Thunderbolt features a cast of familiar euro-trash actors such as Klaus Kinski and Sybil Danning. Yitsak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and much of the real-life Israeli cabinet appear as themselves as do 13 of the original hostages! The acting may not be the greatest in the world, but it’s about as close to authentic as you can get. My only disappointment here is with the many undeveloped plot threads and red herrings, and Kinski is unsurprisingly in the film for very little. Also for some reason the film has a lot of extended foreign-language dialog scenes with no subtitles, leaving the casual English-speaking viewer wonder what the hell they’re talking about.

This is a great movie though. It makes great use of the rich Dov Seltzer musical score to slowly build up to the explosive finale which is edited well enough to feel like a real firefight. Yoni’s death is captured much better and more realistic than either of the other two films, made all the more poignant with Seltzer’s extremely memorable music. This film also has some very interesting photography, although firmly footed in 70’s style, it only adds to the fun. It’s a hard movie to find, but more than worth it!

Language(s):Hebrew / English / German / Arabic
Subtitles:English – .srt

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