7500, an airborne thriller from Amazon Studios, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tobias Ellis, the co-pilot of a nighttime flight from Berlin to Paris, on which his girlfriend (Aylin Tezel) is working as a flight attendant. Shortly after the plane takes off, a quartet of terrorists storm the cockpit brandishing makeshift knives. Though Tobias manages to close the cockpit door, the scuffle leaves him injured and the captain (Carlo Kitzlinger) incapacitated, along with a terrorist Tobias knocked out and tied up. Left to fly the plane and contact authorities on the ground by himself, Tobias’s only links to the rest of the plane are the intercom system and the security camera mounted just outside the cockpit. As the terrorists in the main cabin grow impatient, they force Tobias to make increasingly brutal choices as the de facto hostage negotiator.
With the exception of a brief opening credits sequence, 7500 plays out in real time and takes place entirely in the claustrophobic confines of the cockpit. It’s capably shot within this limited setup, emphasizing the tininess of its location to pile on tension. A neat trick the movie pulls off is its use of the visual space outside the plane’s windshield; though the occasional sight of clouds on the horizon allows for moments of breathing room, for most of the movie all we can see of the outside world is stifling darkness.
But 7500 wrings most of its intensity from its completely un-stylized, realistically messy depiction of its horrific events, with the story’s key players all registering as fallibly and recognizably human. Tobias, played with an admirable lack of vanity by Gordon-Levitt, is not a tough-as-nails hero but an ordinary man thrust into an impossible situation. And though two of the four terrorists are regelated to minor roles, the two the movie focuses on are given a touch of depth as well. Most poignant is Vedat (an excellent Omid Memar), the youngest member of the group who becomes scared and desperate as he realizes far too late the colossal mistake he’s made. 7500 can hardly even be called an action movie, because that designation seems wrong for a story so harrowingly believable.
Unlike most other movies of its type – and by that, I mean both plane movies and single-room movies – 7500 doesn’t have any real lulls, maintaining its brisk pace from takeoff to landing. But the tight length ends up working against it more than once, inadvertently giving away the resolution of plot threads by mere virtue of how much – or how little – time the movie has left. And sometimes the pacing is too ruthlessly efficient for its own good; 7500 starts exactly when it needs to but ends a little too soon. The final scene competently wraps up the story but leaves the audience cold, the impact of the ending muted because it seems so inevitable. Like much of the movie’s narrative, it makes the obvious choice, one that fits the story but fails to wholly satisfy. Though 7500 undoubtedly feels real, it also feels like something we’ve seen before.