Flight control, we have a problem.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hollywood’s very own wonder boy, makes a triumphant return to the screen with 7500, a tense thriller set entirely in the cockpit of a plane. Gordon-Levitt plays Tobias Ellis, a co-pilot to the more experienced Michael on a flight about to depart Berlin airport to Paris. On board is also Gökce (Aylin Tezel), a flight attendant and Tobias’ partner, but the two prefer to keep their relationship a secret for professionalism’s sake. Four terrorists – led by Muratuan Muslu’s Kenan – suddenly attempt to take control of the aircraft mid-flight but Tobias is able to fend the intruders off and secure the cockpit, but this is only the beginning of his problems in this real-time thriller.

It’s a simple premise, but the magic is in the execution. This film is about as lean and mean as thrillers come and its simple premise pays off handsomely, even if it can’t really bring anything new to the genre. Although the stereotypical, Islamist-terrorists-hijacking-a-plane-narrative seems tired and even offensive, the film is undoubtedly a tense watch. Director Patrick Vollrath makes a brave choice in focussing all of the action in the cockpit with Gordon-Levitt’s Tobias rather than exploring the cabin area where arguably more is happening. Tobias can only observe the events through a small monitor and as Vollrath never shows what’s happening beyond that, 7500 becomes an almost suffocating experience.

Gordon-Levitt is a welcome presence here and is able to ground the film nicely, switching effortlessly from panic to helplessness and determination, often within the same scene. It’s a delightfully earnest performance and Gordon-Levitt brings a lot of vulnerability to the role. Vollrath subtly draws attention to the fact that regardless of what Tobias does, the situation will have lasting effects on him. If he lets the terrorists in the cockpit, against the instructions of flight control, he endangers all of the passengers. If he doesn’t, he is forced to observe the terrorists killing random, innocent passengers right outside his door. In other words, Tobias is an unremarkable man with an extraordinary responsibility weighing down on his shoulders.

Although the film takes place in the confined space of the cockpit, Vollrath and cinematographer Sebastian Thaler find ways to keep the visual aspect of the film fresh. It is stripped down to the very barest form possible, which feels both refreshing and a little uninspired towards the end. The film’s 92-minute runtime never drags; from the beginning, 7500 settles into a brisk pace and sets everything up nicely and neatly. The film runs into trouble during it’s third act when it’s forced to reinvent itself and the film becomes more of a two-hander between Tobias and the youngest of the terrorists.

Although Vollrath and co-writer Senad Halilbasic do their best to avoid the pitfalls of portraying Muslim terrorists, the film still comes across as a little tone-deaf. There’s genuine effort to humanise teenage Vedat, played with nervous energy by Omid Memar, and make him more than just a one-note, stereotypical villain, but ultimately it all lacks nuance and the conviction to break free from the genre’s designated thrills to really do something different with the premise.

While 7500 features some very impressive technical mastery, aided by tight editing on Hansjörg Weißbrich’s part, Vollrath simply can’t keep the momentum going to the very end. 7500 is a tense, entertaining, real-life disaster thriller, which falls victim to old-fashioned stereotypes. Gordon-Levitt brings admirable nuance and commitment to his role, proving himself as one of the most watchable, reliable actors of his generation, but even a great performance can’t save a problematic premise.

7500 is available from June 18th on Amazon Prime.

Maria Lattila

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

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