‘7500’ movie review: A hijacking gone wrong, riddled with clichés

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s superlative performance can’t save ‘7500’  

A thriller film about an aeroplane being hijacked by Islamic extremists yelling, “Allahu Akbar” because they want Westerners to pay for Muslim deaths around the world. Sounds like a clichéd script, doesn’t it?

If 7500 was your average American film, Patrick Vollrath, the writer-director (who won the Academy Award for his short Everything Will Be Okay), would have added a bit of drama. We’d at least have a potential hero amid the passengers attempting to sabotage the hijackers’ plans. Or, it could feature more scandalous hijackers than snakes (#sorrynotsorry Samuel L Jackson).

But 7500 isn’t an American film, and so what we get instead is 90 minutes that play out inside a cockpit; we see what happens when an American first officer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) comes face-to-face with hijackers attempting to crash his plane.

What 7500, which is the transponder code for an aircraft hijacking, does differently is restrict all of its action to within the cockpit. The very few shots that don’t involve the cockpit or Gordon-Levitt’s face, is shown to us as CCTV camera footage. All this helps build a claustrophobic effect, which a superb Gordon-Levitt performance only helps elevate. Alongside German actor Carlo Kitzlinger, who was once a commercial airline pilot, we are treated to a range of abbreviations, code and cockpit talk straight out of the flying manual for the sake of authenticity.

Flying from Berlin to Paris on what seems like a routine flight, Tobias Ellis (Gordon Levitt) has to battle an unexpected takeover by hijackers armed with knives made of glass (Could that get past security?).

  • Director: Patrick Vollrath
  • Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Aylin Tezel, Murathan Muslu, Carlo Kitzlinger
  • Storyline: An American pilot fights off a team of hijackers who attempt to take over his flight with an intent to crash the aircraft

His captain (Kitzlinger) is fatally wounded in the takeover bid but he succeeds in incapacitating the man responsible for it while managing to shut the cockpit door and stopping three others from entering. He regains control, then loses it briefly but gets it back again. Through this all, he has to watch one of the terrorists slit the necks of a passenger and a flight steward, who also happens to be the mother of his child, because he refuses to open the cockpit door.

Portraying, as realistically as possible, the emotional upheavals of a character trapped in a confined space, especially under enormous pressure, is one of the few high points of 7500.

You watch Gordon Levitt’s Tobias yelling, crying and punching the insides of the cockpit as he goes through anger, frustration and anxiety all at once. He fights to stay conscious even after losing a lot of blood so he can commandeer the aircraft to safety when all the while the hijackers outside have been trying to knock the cockpit’s door down.

When the love of his life is held up against the inflight camera with a knife pointed just millimetres away from her neck, he gives out a desperate call to passengers to help him overpower the hijackers. He even shakes the plane about to throw the hijacker off balance, and just when he is about to give in to their demands and open the door, he watches as they slit her neck. He is broken beyond measure although he has little choice but to regain his composure, for the task at hand is far more important as so many more lives are dependent on his actions.

Gordon-Levitt’s composed performance, where, even in the face of danger and death, the actor opts to pull back just a little on his emotions when most actors would have opted for histrionics, is a delight to watch.

Secondly, the art of cinematography is seldom appreciated especially when the film’s focus is a subject caught in an enclosed space.

Films like Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped or even R Parthiban’s Oththa Seruppu, for instance, require masterful cinematography to engross us into the drama or action unfolding in that confined space. The empty wall, a ceiling fan or even the cupboard become objects that amplify our viewing pleasure.

And so, when you shoot a film wholly inside the cockpit of an aircraft, especially when the premise is of a plane flying during the night, the mood of the film ought to also be set by the throttle control, the keys that activate flaps, the knobs that set the direction and altitude or even the centre stick, which does get featured in a few shots (You even feel the urge to hold it and steady things when Tobias loses control of his aircraft).

7500 grips you into what is unfolding on screen through its clever use of lights and frames (if you can look past the clearly uninspired writing that causes said events to happen and retain focus only on Gordon-Levitt), although I’d have wished for Vollrath to have used continuous shots, especially since everything is happening within the cockpit.

What doesn’t work eventually for the film is its uninventive storyline that plays off clichés.

The short runtime helps because by the time you find yourself counting the seconds until it is over (around the time when Tobias attempts to bond with an 18-year-old hijacker who doesn’t really want to die, and who strangely gets a call from his mom), 7500’s altitude would have dropped significantly that it comes as a surprise that it didn’t crash land on impact. Vollrath only has his superlative first officer to credit for that.

7500 is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 5:18:23 PM |

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