Review By: Jonathan W. Hickman
In a solid example of the minimalist, contained thriller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt returns to acting after a brief hiatus to play a pilot besieged by terrorists.
Director and co-writer Patrick Vollrath took the title of “7500” from what a pilot might squawk into his headset to air traffic control in the event of a hijacking. And in the film, these words are uttered early, following a dramatic attack by terrorists armed with knives made of broken and sharpened glass pieces.
After a credit sequence featuring airport terminal security cam footage, the bulk of the movie takes place entirely onboard a plane. But the visual scope is even more restrictive as the action is centered in the cockpit. This limitation is both a blessing and a curse, because some viewers may tire of the single set-piece.
We meet the young co-pilot, Tobias (Gordon-Levitt), as he goes through his pre-flight routine under the watchful eye and guidance of Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger), his older, wiser captain. They are joined briefly by a pretty flight-attendant named Gökce (Aylin Tezel), who is in a somewhat clandestine relationship with Tobias. They have a child together, but they don’t publicize their relationship.
The flight from Berlin to Paris starts without incident. But once the plane is at cruising altitude, a team of hardened, determined men attempts to storm the cockpit. In the melee, Michael is severely injured, and Tobias’ arm is slashed. Having temporarily thwarted the first wave, Tobias and Michael have to decide how to get the plane on the ground while protecting everyone on board.
Reminiscent of the Tom Hanks film “Captain Phillips,” “7500” traps its cast in a small space forcing them to make impossible decisions. After the thrilling opening attack, the movie calms down as Tobias attempts to reason with his captors. Standing between him and certain death is the cockpit door, that, as we know, have been substantially reinforced in the years after the 9/11 tragedy.
“7500” works because of its short running time and committed performances. Gordon-Levitt, one of today's most likable screen presences, plays the everyman pilot with a great deal of knowing empathy. Like Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” Gordon-Levitt goes through the requisite number of emotional expressions—fear, anger, and deep sadness. That latter emotion is the one that will stick with you as the movie concludes.
Cinematographer Sebastian Thaler (see 2017’s “Falling”) makes excellent use of the Arri Alexa digital camera to capture the tension of the dangerous situation intimately. Surprisingly, he and Vollrath maintain interest over the entire running time in a small confined space. Naturally, credit goes to the actors, but as a single set-piece, the cockpit itself feels tangible and authentic. The real, “you-are-there” approach is often riveting.
A movie like this has to walk the line between frustration and excitement. At times, the mechanizations involved in piloting the plane are tedious, but, even as a non-pilot, I found this aspect of the narrative fascinating. And the time taken to introduce the cockpit elements and the controls helps to build the movie’s credibility.
While many years have passed since the 9/11 attacks, “7500” reminds us that terrorism is still alive and well. The film is a harrowing tale that feels current and important.
A RottenTomatoes.com Tomatometer-approved critic, Jonathan W. Hickman is also an entertainment lawyer, college professor, novelist, and filmmaker. He’s a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, The Southeastern Film Critics Association, and the Georgia Film Critics Association. For more information about Jonathan visit: FilmProductionLaw.com or DailyFIlmFix.com