Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a pilot who must wrestle back control of his plane from terrorists in 7500.
Ever since the horrifying events of 9/11, we have been all too aware of the potential for a plane journey to turn into a living nightmare.
With the exception of Paul Greengrass’ United 93, filmmakers have generally avoided plots that obviously reference the events of that day, but 7500, German director Patrick Vollrath’s feature debut, is an exception.
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a pilot whose plane is taken over by terrorists, the movie begins with CCTV footage showing passengers moving through Berlin airport security, before cutting to the cockpit of a plane getting ready for boarding.
First Officer Tobias Ellis (Gordon-Levitt) and his Captain (Carlo Kitzlinger) are going through formalities before take off, while ushering passengers on board are the air hostesses, including Gökce (Aylin Tezel) - who is in a relationship and has a child with Tobias - though they keep things strictly professional when flying together.
Tobias’ plans to enjoy a mundane hop across Europe go into a tailspin when a gang of terrorists barge into the cockpit when it is unlocked - with the pilot bravely subduing one attacker and evicting the others.
He is left trapped in the cockpit - unable to open the door due to the terrorists threatening his passengers and protocols designed to stop another 9/11.
Throughout 7500, Vollrath makes a conscious choice to embrace realism and understatement.
It unfolds in real time, almost entirely in the cockpit - with one small video screen providing a window for us to see the attackers.
There are long pauses as Tobias struggles to catch his breath or contemplate disaster, and even the action scenes feature unruly grapples rather than stylised heroism.
This approach works in the film’s favour to some extent, with it at times feeling strangely like Steven Knight’s minimalist cult classic Locke (set entirely in a car).
However, there is such a thing as too much realism - a trap 7500 falls into by ditching recognisable plot beats for a structure that may closely resemble how a real-life attack would unfold, but stifles and sidelines the drama.
In particular, its most emotionally heightened point feels strangely out of place, ripping some of the tension away from what comes after.
As ever, Gordon-Levit does a fine job on his own or with just one other on screen for much of the film, but strangely the camera doesn’t linger on him even in the most expressive scenes, and he’s often shot side on.
That said, you can see why Amazon Studios acquired the film last year for release on their platform.
Despite its faults, Vollrath has created a curiosity that does draw you in with its subject matter and his interesting choices as a filmmaker, meaning 7500 is certainly worth giving a go at home, even if it would not have made for a night of thrills or emotions at the cinema.
7500 is available on Amazon Prime Video now.
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