7500 – Review
7500 is the code that airlines use for a hijacking, and hijacking is the subject of Amazon’s drama/thriller 7500. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tobias Ellis, a young American co-pilot working for a German airline, who on a Berlin to Paris flight is confronted with tough choices when hijackers storm the cockpit, and stab the more experienced German pilot. 7500 is streaming on Amazon Prime, starting June 18, 2020.
With the German pilot Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger) disabled, the inexperienced Tobias must take charge of the situation. To make matters more tense, Tobias’ German-Turkish fiancee Gokce (German actress Aylin Tezel) is a flight attendant on the plane. The one advantage Tobias has is that the four hijackers have no guns and are armed only with improvised knives made from broken glass.
The whole film takes place in the confined space of the cockpit of the plane, apart from a brief introduction in the airport before take off. That confined-space technique puts 7500 in the same category as other dramatic thrillers as PHONE BOOTH and Hitchcock’s classics DIAL M FOR MURDER, ROPE and LIFEBOAT. The plot draws elements from some real- life terrorism events, not all of them hijackings, contributing a sense of realism. The restricted physical space is actually an asset in this case, heightening the tension. The film uses the single-space concept fairly well but it does not break new ground or add anything creatively to a concept that is itself a gimmick of sorts.
However, the film’s greatest strength is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose strong central performance keeps the audience on edge and involved. His performance is the main appeal of this drama/thriller, but it is supplemented by creative camerawork by director of photography Sebastian Thaler, who uses the low-light typical of cockpits to create shadowy, tension-filled images and an eerie other-worldly, contemplative tone in some moments.
Still, director Patrick Vollrath never fully takes advantage of either the thriller potential of the film’s concept or its talented lead actor. The problem is the under-cooked script, which has a few problems. A glaring example is when both Tobias and the pilot Michael are stabbed. It takes Tobias a long time to tend to the pilot’s wounds, or even look at them, which one would expect to be a higher priority once he has tied up the unconscious hijacker he subdued. Instead, Tobias repeatedly just asks the German pilot if he is OK, even though we can see he is bleeding. It is one of a number of blips that mar the drama, detracting from the story and nice performances.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a fine job with the role, although it does not demand as much from him as some other roles he has played, giving him less opportunity to really stretch his considerable dramatic muscles. While Gordon-Levitt does his usual good job, the nature of the story often limits what he can do. The character he plays, Tobias, is soft-spoken, unlike the talkative, outgoing experienced pilot played by German actor Carlo Kitzlinger, who is quickly out of commission. Pilots are trained to remain calm in emergencies anyway, which Gordon-Levitt conveys admirably, but the plot has him frequently alone in the cockpit and reacting to what he can see on the small black-and-white video screen that allows pilots to see what is happening just outside the cockpit door,. The combination leaves Gordon-Levitt little room dramatically in which to work.
The major focus is on Gordon-Levitt and the rest of the cast are in supporting roles that are mostly lightly sketched out. One of the larger of these supporting role is Vedat (young Austrian actor Omid Memar), the youngest of the hijackers, who spends many tense minutes in the cramped cockpit space with the co-pilot. Omid Memar, who was 18-years-old when hired, does a nice job with the role, tapping into the fears and doubts of the teen-aged character and exploring the motives of the hijackers on some level. Even so, the script does not offer enough to really give any character great depth. Kitzlinger as the older pilot also does a nice job, although his role and others in the cast have limited screen time.
The script is the major limit of the film, despite its talented lead actor. At the start, the film sets up complex relationships and hints at interesting backstories but never really draws on them. Some of what happens in the film are simply dumb, such as the delay in tending to the injured pilot, which undermines the ability of the audience to buy-in to what happening to the characters on screen. In other moments, the script is much better, and would be best described as uneven rather than bad. The basic concept is good and that unevenness hints that this could have been a much stronger film, making better use of the wealth of talent Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings.
7500 is a well-made dramatic thriller with a better cast than script, using a single-space concept which could work in its favor but which is not fully exploited. It is a nice showcase for Joseph Gordon-Levitt but it could have been a much stronger one. 7500, in English with some German and Turkish with English subtitles, is available VOD on Amazon Prime starting June 18.
RATING: 2 1/2 out of 4 stars