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On Amazon Prime: 7500 (2020)

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7500
(Germany/Austria/US/France - 2020)

Directed by Patrick Vollrath. Written by Patrick Vollrath and Senad Halibasic. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Aylin Tezel, Carlo Kitzlinger, Murathan Muslu, Paul Wollin, Passar Hariky, Aurelie Thepaut, Denis Schmidt, Max Schimmelpfennig. (R, 93 mins)

In the first half of the 2010s, it seemed like Joseph Gordon-Levitt was everywhere with huge Christopher Nolan blockbusters like INCEPTION and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Rian Johnson's LOOPER, Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN, and Robert Zemeckis' THE WALK. He even had enough star power going to direct his own acclaimed 2013 pet project DON JON. Aside from some voice work (including a phone cameo in Johnson's KNIVES OUT), he's been offscreen since Oliver Stone's shameless 2016 hagiography SNOWDEN, but is back with the European-made, real-time hijacking thriller 7500, which was shot back in late 2017 but is only now surfacing on Amazon Prime after the coronavirus nixed a planned theatrical release. 7500--not to be confused with Takashi Shimizu's atrocious 2016 airborne horror film FLIGHT 7500, which was originally titled 7500--is named for the flight term for a hijacking, and feels a bit past its sell-by date as far as post 9/11 thrillers go, but it's a tense, textbook nail-biter, thanks in large part to director/co-writer Patrick Vollrath--the filmmaker with a surname most likely to double as the name of a Viking metal band--playing it smart with his feature debut by keeping the action confined to one location, leaving the audience knowing just as much as the hero about what's going on outside his immediate view.






Gordon-Levitt is Tobias Ellis, the co-pilot on a routine flight from Berlin to Paris. An American expat, Ellis lives in Germany with his half-Turkish/half-German flight attendant girlfriend Gokce (Aylin Tezel) and their two-year-old son. She's on the flight, and though they keep it professional, affable pilot Capt. Michael Lutzmann (Carlo Kitzlinger) is quick to pick up on their connection. Vollrath spends the first 15 minutes of the film moving the camera around the cockpit as the characters are established and the pilots go through the details of their pre-flight checklist. Shortly after takeoff, a quartet of Muslim hijackers attempt to storm the cockpit, with one, Kenan (Murathan Muslu) getting in and stabbing Lutzmann numerous times with a makeshift knife made of glass. Ellis manages to keep the others out and lock the cockpit door, but not before sustaining a serious, gushing wound that immobilizes his left arm. He knocks Kenan unconscious and painstakingly manages to restrain him with his one functioning hand as the captain succumbs to his injuries, forcing Ellis to handle the escalating situation on his own. He notifies air traffic control of the incident and the plane is diverted for an emergency landing in Hanover as he tries to work with an open, nerve-damaging injury and with the other terrorists banging on the cockpit door, which Ellis dutifully refuses to open even after he looks on the monitor and sees the leader, Daniel (Paul Wollin) about to murder one of the passengers by slashing his throat.


Ellis spots a weakness in their group with young Vedat (Omid Memar), who speaks English and is seen on the monitor trying to stop Daniel from killing other people. The hijacking--the terrorists have no demands and only want to crash the plane in a major city--really only takes up the first hour, with the remaining 30 minutes essentially being a two-character piece once Ellis lets a terrified Vedat into the cockpit to save him from his own cohorts. Vollrath walks a fine line in humanizing Vedat as a naive, impressionable 18-year-old who's been goaded by religious extremism into a tragic situation he lacks the maturity to fully comprehend (he even calls his mother to tell her he was a fool to believe them and he just wants to go home). It's essentially CAPTAIN PHILLIPS in a cockpit, but Vollrath's claustrophobic handling of the action and keeping it in such a confined space gives the first hour an effective anxiety attack intensity that does dissipate somewhat once Ellis and Vedat start telling each other about themselves. 7500 also gets a lot from an excellent Gordon-Levitt in a strong and physically demanding performance that quickly makes you forget how he has that pre-INCEPTION Di Caprio thing going on where he still looks like a kid even though he's in his late 30s (his youthful appearance is even worked into the story as Capt. Lutzmann, meeting Ellis for the first time, can't believe he's been flying for ten years). Vollrath also doesn't pull any punches with who he's willing to kill off, which only adds to the nightmarish scenario when Ellis is put in a position to choose between what's best for him versus what's best for the passengers. 7500 probably would've been more "hot button" timely a decade and a half ago, but it's a solid single-set suspense piece with one of Gordon-Levitt's best performances.


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