If the coronavirus isn’t enough to keep you grounded, perhaps this will do the trick! Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the young, soft-spoken American co-pilot of a commercial flight from Berlin to Paris that is hijacked shortly after take-off. If it were anyone other than Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the hot seat, I may have bailed. But Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, 50/50, Inception) is so darn appealing that I can watch him in just about anything – including an intense, visceral, claustrophobic thriller that takes place almost entirely inside the cockpit of an Airbus A320. The film’s title – 7500 – doesn’t refer to the flight number. It’s the emergency code to alert Air Traffic Control that your plane’s been hijacked. 7-5-0-0. Fasten those seatbelts; you’re in for a stressful ride.
7500 marks the feature film debut for German director Patrick Vollrath, best known for his 2016 Oscar-nominated live action short, Everything Will Be Okay (Alles wird gut). Apparently the guy likes to mess with our heads and emotions in both 30 minute and 90 minute increments! 7500 isn’t particularly groundbreaking in its narrative (terrorists overpower a flight attendant, break into the cockpit, attack the crew, and start making crazy demands in the name of Allah), but it certainly offers a unique perspective. For the most part, you only see what pilot Tobias Ellis (Gordon-Levitt) sees – whether it’s from activity in the cockpit itself, or from a closed-circuit feed from a camera mounted just outside the cockpit door. Ellis is forced to witness some harrowing stuff while trying to land the plane, tend to his own injuries, and follow protocol.
According to the press notes, Vollrath wanted “a talented actor in his 30s who was likeable and convincing as an up-and-coming pilot” to play Ellis, a mild-mannered American who shares a two-year-old son with his half-Turkish flight-attendant girlfriend Gökce (Aylin Tezel). Gordon-Levitt fit the bill perfectly. He’s an everyman, not an action hero. And that contributes to the film’s realism and intensity, especially when it comes to the interactions between Ellis and a frightened teenage hijacker (Omid Memar) who is in way over his head. The casting of the plane’s ill-fated Captain also lends an air of authenticity to the film. He’s played by a relatively unknown German actor, Carlo Kitzlinger, whose resume included 20 years flying planes for Lufthansa. So you definitely get the sense that the mundane pre-flight checks and crew banter are spot on. It’s all perfectly routine, until it’s not. 7-5-0-0.
7500 is rated R for violence/terror and language and plays more like an indie or foreign film than a mainstream action flick. It’s no joy ride, but JGL makes it watchable (except for the parts where I opted to cover my eyes). 7500 is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video starting Thursday, June 18.