Recommendation: The story is fairly straightforward and the deeper stuff isn’t quite effective, but the execution of concept, and the anxiety and emotional rollercoaster portrayed by JGL is worth a go. 6.5/10.
IMDB Synopsis: When terrorists try to seize control of a Berlin-Paris flight, a soft-spoken young American co-pilot struggles to save the lives of the passengers and crew while forging a surprising connection with one of the hijackers.
7500, aptly named for the code that pilots utter to air traffic control and black boxes during a hijacking, is just that. A bottle film of a would-be airline takeover, 7500 isn’t glitzy, rather it’s grounded in technical realism and a more human-centered story—on both the good guys and bad guys sides. And the film isn’t large scale either: The entirety of the film takes place in the cockpit of an Airbus 319, focused on Joseph Gordon Levitt’s pilot character. And while some of the loftier subject matter may not be quite believable, 7500 certainly succeeds as a thrilling, and at times, anxiety-inducing watch.
First Officer Tobias Ellis (Levitt), an American pilot flying for a German airline, and captain Michael Lutzmann (Carlo Litzlinger, a real life pilot), are flying from Berlin to Paris. Ellis’ girlfriend flight attendant Gökce (Aylin Tezel) is also working the routine night flight. After a breezy opening 10 that’s both mundane yet entertaining with its realistic technical dialogue, 7500 gets going. Shortly after takeoff, Turkish hijackers storm the cockpit, with one managing to work his way in. The pilot is killed, the terrorist is rendered unconscious, and Tobias is hurt but maintains control of the aircraft. Heading for an emergency landing, 7500 doesn’t hide it’s true nature. There are no mid air action set pieces, no aerial maneuvering, no boardroom filled with politicians making life-or-death decisions. No, 7500 sees through Tobias’ eyes, showing the personal toll—both physically and emotionally—that the pilot undergoes.
The soft spoken young pilot is put into an impossible situation: Watch as hostages are killed as he refuses to open the cockpit (including Gökce). The film stumbles in the middle-to-end with plotting as the unconscious terrorist in the cockpit overtakes Tobias, letting in the younger Vedat (Omid Memar). From there, Vedat has a crisis of conscious and kills his terrorist partner and aloes Tobias to emergency land. It’s clear that 7500 wants to portray Vedat as a terrorist with humanity, a scared child caught up in something he doesn’t understand, but the film kind of flails from Vedat’s crisis up until the end.
The leap that 7500 wants the viewer to make is a bridge too far. While certainly real world circumstances and individuals are not emotionally black and white, a pilot and hijacker would be an unlikely connective duo in this situation. However, the film does succeed at creating tension, engendering genuine stakes, and crafting a claustrophobic atmosphere. Coupled with a standout performance by JGL as he oscillates between proficient pilot, tortured negotiator, fearful hostage, and caring human, 7500 succeeds as a palpable thriller.
Find it here on Amazon Prime.
MVP: JGL shows an incredible range here, which isn’t news, but still a pleasant surprise for a streaming original.
Highlights: The claustrophobic cockpit fights are incredible. The technical realism of the flight speak is really cool, too.
Director: Patrick Vollrath
Studio: Amazon Studios Release date: June 18, 2020 (Amazon)