THE powerful and shocking events in Uganda in the summer of 1976 are explored once again in this solid, if unremarkable, historical thriller that gives us both boots on the ground and negotiations as a way into the sensational story.

It depicts what happened when a group of militants, two Palestinian and two German, hijacked an Air France flight as part of a fight for the liberation of Palestine.

The story sees them force the pilots to land to refuel in Entebbe, Uganda, where they keep hundreds of passengers – many of them Israelis – hostage. They demand a ransom of $5 million as well as the release of 53 pro-Palestinian prisoners.

It then goes back and forth between what’s happening at the airport and those high up in the Israeli government – namely Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and minister of defence Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) – as they try to resolve this situation.

Our way into events is the perspective of the two German hijackers, Wilfried Bose (Daniel Bruhl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike).

Bruhl in particular does a great job of believably conveying the anguish this man feels having to balance his convictions and his humanitarianism, adding character depth that is somewhat lacking in Gregory Burke’s script.

We’re given flashbacks to the duo’s past in an attempt to underline their motivation and provide context but these leaps back in time slow the story to a sluggish pace. Elsewhere there’s a subplot involving an Israeli soldier (Ben Schnetzer) and his girlfriend’s (Zina Zinchenko) interpretative dance performance that’s never really explained.

Both of these avenues take away from what is an otherwise quite impressive sense of nail-biting urgency, both during the especially wordy but compelling back-and-forth arguments in Jerusalem and at the airport itself.

The latter includes intermittent appearances by the domineering Idi Amin (Nonso Anozie) – described by almost everyone who mentions him as being utterly crazy – who seemingly welcomes the attention he gets as a leader of a nation that the drastic situation brings. Meanwhile, there’s a general escalating feeling that this pressure-cooker situation is about to explode.

As anyone even a little familiar with the real-life events will know, explode it does with the infamous Israeli special forces-led raid on the airport. It’s here where director Jose Padilha shows of his chief skills as a filmmaker, bringing the same sense of immediate, shock-and-awe spectacle that he first showcased in both Elite Squad movies (and to a lesser extent in the Robocop remake) to that all-important sequence.

The raid doesn’t last long but provides a gripping exclamation point to a film that admirably attempts to tell an important and complex historical event in the context of an accessible thriller.

Though there’s a bit too much going on for it to handle, the film involving and thought-provoking enough in its own right to hold the attention.