“7500”, which premiered in 2019 at the Locarno Film Festival and was digitally released to stream in the US by Amazon a week ago, is a decent, if ultimately forgettable, hijacking thriller. The film centers on a young co-pilot named Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose plane is taken hostage by glass-knife-wielding Islamic terrorists. After a scuffle in the cockpit leaves the other pilot dead and one of the terrorists incapacitated, Tobias closes the cockpit door, locking the other terrorists outside. From there, he must contend and negotiate with the terrorists demanding entry to the cockpit, which begins to escalate as they start threatening the passengers and flight crew. This becomes personal for Tobias, as one of the stewardesses is his fiancée and the mother of his child….
As a whole, the movie is generally good. Despite most of the movie taking place in the crammed setting of the cockpit (only the opening credit sequence and the final scene take place in other locations), director Patrick Vollrath maintains a high level of suspense throughout the film’s 92-minute runtime. The device of a grainy TV monitor as Tobias’s only visual methodology as to what is going on outside the cockpit, the diegetic sound in the form of increasingly aggressive knocking/banging and the faint background din of chaos, and the shaky handheld cinematography all contribute to the excitement and thrills of the movie.
Gordon-Levitt also turns in an excellent performance, another factor which keeps the film mostly entertaining and stimulating—an impressive feat, considering he is practically alone in a confined space for the vast majority of the story. The constant stream of nervous beads of sweat on his forehead, the increasingly heavy breathing, and the sudden outbursts of emotion and nervousness before being suppressed by the controlled composure necessary if he is to minimize casualties—in short, the constant tension between innate human fear and the stalwart stature required to diffuse the situation—imbue the character with a believable and admirable quality, and it is all due to Gordon-Levitt’s acute attention to detail.
Yet, despite the film’s strengths, it is rendered unremarkable due to its flat and bland cast of characters. Here, the fault must lie with the screenplay, which simply does not supply its characters with enough dimensionality to impart emotional resonance. As a first and glaring example, the first fifteen minutes consist of expository dialogue meant to establish the backgrounds and traits of the main characters. Yet, these conversations are dull, inane, and apart from detailing their situations and background information, reveal nothing about the deeper, inner qualities of the characters. It is understandable that the screenwriters would want realistic conversations which, in this scenario, probably would err on the inane side. But that does not preclude deeper characterization. Indeed, some of the best written movies are able to connote inner traits and/or differentiate the characters in meaningful ways solely through the vehicle of seemingly inane or pointless conversations (e.g., the opening diner scene in “Reservoir Dogs”). This film, however, fails to do that and as a result, when the terrorists attack, there is a thrill from the well-directed action, but there is no legitimate concern for the characters involved simply because they do not feel like real people.
Additionally, the film takes an interesting and unique turn by humanizing one of the terrorists, eighteen-year-old Vedat (Omid Memar), who does not want to die nor to kill others, and who, it is implied, was swindled and manipulated by his older Jihadist coterie. Unfortunately, Vedat’s arc is unsatisfying for much of the same reasons as posited above. His motivations and sources of inner conflict are extraordinarily surface-level and obvious, with nothing unique or complex underlying his self-reckoning. The guilt stemming from staring at a dead corpse, the realization that the pilot is a neighbor down the street—this is kids’ stuff, hardly the type of things that would induce serious change of one who, even if manipulated, convinced himself to board a plane with a glass knife and charge the cockpit in an effort to gain control and crash it. Who knows though—perhaps there was something else to those seemingly obvious and clichéd catalysts for change that affected Vedat. It remains a mystery, however, since the filmmakers failed to explicate or even hint at a deeper aspect of Vedat’s character that could warrant such conjecture. As a result, the scenes of Vedat contending with his choices and the penultimate emotional finale—the scene meant to elicit sympathy and provide the character with heart—fall flat.
In conclusion, “7500” is not a bad film; it is certainly entertaining and demonstrates director Patrick Vollrath’s technical proficiency. Just do not expect anything deep or complex regarding characters—if you think of them as mere fodder or conduits for the action, then this will be a good film to spend an evening with.