The appetite for fictional movies about planes being hijacked naturally diminished after the horrific acts on 9/11, and rightly so. U.S. films that did broach the topic, like Flightplan and Non-Stop, were “movie-fied” to make sure their situations were not close to the real-life events. But now, almost 20 years later, perhaps enough time has passed for a film like 7500 to be accepted and welcomed.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tobias Ellis, a first officer pilot for a fictitious German airline. Soon after the plane he and Captain Michael Lutzmann (Carlo Kitzlinger) are helming from Berlin to Paris takes off, a group of hijackers attempts to storm the cockpit using broken glass as knives. One manages to make his way in, but Tobias is able to subdue him and regain control even after getting injured.
The remaining hijackers continue trying to get in, threatening to kill passengers and crew members if he doesn’t abide by their commands. Meanwhile, Tobias does everything in his power to get the plane down to safety before the hijackers can do any more damage than they already have.
Written and directed by German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath, the film takes place almost entirely in one location — the cockpit of the airplane. We see the front of the passenger cabin through the door and via a video monitor in the cockpit, but the camera never travels back there. The claustrophobic nature of keeping the action in one tight space intensifies the story immeasurably.
Vollrath also keeps the focus on the story by using no music at all, with just the atmospheric sounds of flying in an airplane and muted voices from the passenger cabin as background noise. Combined with a plethora of technical jargon (including the title code indicating a hijacking in process) that shows an adherence to the reality of flying an airplane, it’s clear that Vollrath wants to keep things as accurate as possible.
Adding to the verisimilitude is that Vollrath never tries to turn the film into an action movie. While there are moments of violence, every character who has a line, from the pilots to the flight attendants to the hijackers, acts in a way consistent with real life. There are no over-the-top heroics or villainy, just genuine “what would you do?” type of situations.
Some are sure to take issue with the fact that the hijackers are Muslim, given the demonization of that religion in the world and pop culture at large. While it’s true that this film could conceivably add to irrational fear of Muslims, it should be said that it also treats these particular characters as more than just hate-filled extremists. Other characters could have — and maybe should have — been explored, but their Muslim identity does not detract from the film overall.
Gordon-Levitt has been under the radar since his starring role in 2016’s Snowden, but he shows here what a compelling actor he still is. He modulates his acting to fit each particular moment, and is utterly believable throughout. None of the other actors will be familiar to American audiences, but both Omid Memar, who plays a conflicted hijacker, and Kitzlinger turn in strong performances.
7500 is a film that conceivably could have been a hit at the box office if new movies were currently being released in theaters, but the fact that you can watch it at home whenever you want is a bonus for film lovers. It’s a compelling thriller that’s all the more powerful for how true to life it actually feels.
7500 is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.