I am always a fan of efficient storytelling. The hijacking thriller 7500 (now streaming on Amazon Prime) fluidly establishes its protagonist and concept in its early scenes, then introduces its plot in a sudden, terrifying, instant. It seems to be setting the stage for an effective thriller. Unfortunately, a lot of the developments following the setup are a letdown. There are too many clichés and stereotypes for it to work at the level the initial scenes suggest. The first half as a whole is fine, but the back half drags with repetitive story beats. It turns out, the plot has nowhere interesting to go. The suspense dissipates due to shallow characterizations. Director/cowriter Patrick Vollrath uses his location well and gets a solid performance from his lead. Sadly, 7500 runs out of fuel just as it seems prepared to kick into high gear.
Tobias is an American pilot working for a German airline. We see him enter the cockpit, chat with the flight attendant and begin preparations with the copilot to fly from Berlin to Paris. Once they get in the air, terrorists attack the cockpit and all hell breaks loose, with Tobias the only hope to prevent them from going through with their plan.
7500 has three aspects that recommend it. The first is the very straightforward setup. The second is the convincingly claustrophobic feel of its location. The third is the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tobias.
I already touched on the movie’s opening act, but I was impressed with how real it came across. Yes, there are a couple of lines of dialogue that come off as unnatural and it is clear from the start this is a genre picture and not a documentary about two guys flying a plane. However, Vollrath does a good job of showing small details without underlining them. Everything viewers need to know for when the action starts is brought into the story fairly plausibly. Though it is engaging while it lasts, that attempt at a little realism drops off significantly when the plot gets going.
I quite liked the way they used the cockpit. The vast majority of 7500 takes place in that small space. It becomes a character itself. It is secure, in that Tobias can lock the door and the hijackers cannot get in. Yet he is also trapped. There is a sense of helplessness in his situation. In the quieter moments, it is like we are in there with him as he tries to figure out how to protect the passengers and land the plane safely. The fact that the camera never leaves the cockpit after Tobias enters it keeps the tension alive, even when 7500 begins to succumb to its more derivative instincts.
Another reason it can do that is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He has been largely absent from the big screen for four years. While he certainly did not pick the most emotionally complex role to come back to, he grounds Tobias, making his decisions understandable, despite things becoming contrived and predictable around him. The way he plays it, Tobias never turns into an action hero. He is a guy forced to react to terrible circumstances using the knowledge of his profession. It will not make it into any career retrospectives. Still, it fits the material, actually lifting it at times.
The good stuff was strong enough that I was able to handle the Muslim terrorist stereotypes and slight logic gaps for a bit. Then it ran out of good stuff, highlighting the bad, before staggering to a dull climax. 7500 has just enough positives that I will not completely dissuade people from watching it (especially if you are already a Prime member). That said, in the end, the skill on display in the parts that work is not enough to earn this an endorsement.
2¾ out of 5
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tobias Ellis
Omid Memar as Vedat
Directed by Patrick Vollrath
Written by Patrick Vollrath and Senad Halilbasic