Sunday, January 30, 2011
Best TV Pick On Sunday Night
One of TV's most exciting hours of the season comes up on Discovery Canada Sunday night at 8.
Assault And Rescue: Operation Thunderball is a dynamic new Canadian-made docudrama documenting the events that led to the spectacular capture of over 100 hostages in Uguanda in 1976.
And this special can also be enthusiastically recommended because it was made by Canada's Frantic Films.
The actual events can be easily summed up: on June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to France was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists.
There were 246 passengers and a dozen crew on board (more than half of them Israeli citizens) and the terrorists ordered the crew to fly the plane to Uguanda's Entebbe airport.
But here's where the new soecial becomes fascinating. Until recently the ten leaders of the Israeli antiterrorist squad who put together a plan to rescue the victims had been ordered not to talk under the strictest secirity terms. Now almost 35 years later they've just been given the green light to talk open;y about the mission.
It's the brilliance of this program that they methodically lay out their plans, discuss their flight into uguanda and also reconstruct what happened on the ground when they hit the airport at night.
It tuirned into the greatest hostage liberation in history.
The first question from the Israelis was a simple one: "Where the hell is Entebbe?" And there was an acknowledgement that the Israeli team was equipped to serve only in the immediate area. Entebbe was far from their normal base of operations and Egypt and Saudi Arabia were then unfriendly powers who would not allow flights over their territory.
There was no other option but to try and forcibly liberate the hostages. This meant using a Hercules air transport plane which could make the journey but would need to be refueled at some point. And only one Israeli veteran pilot could command such a plane: Joshua Shani tells how he was called away from a wedding at Haifa and told about the dangerous mission.
Surprise and concealment were the two necessary strategies. The plane would have to fly low down the Red Sea to avoid Egyptian and Saudi Arabian radar and then turn in over Eritrea which had no radar facilities.
Everything had to be accomplished in an hour because the Uguandan army would surely be alerted by that time. And it had to be a nightime operation for cover --there was the hope the airport runway lights might still be on.
The recollections of the soldiers are exciting but dramatic reconstruction of key scenes makes this one a virtual must see.
Entebbe defined the might of the Israeli nation and its success stopped air hijacking in that country.
Assault And Rescue is more exciting than a dozen action films and that's simply because it's all so very true.
ASSAULT AND RESCUE PREMIERS ON DISCOVERY SUND. JAN. 30 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.