We’ve seen our fair share of plane-set thrillers. We’ve gotten the old-school thrills of Air Force One, the psychological thrills of Flightplan, and the out-and-out absurdity of Non-Stop, to name a few. 7500, the new film from first-time director Patrick Vollrath, goes for a much more claustrophobic experience. Set entirely within the cockpit of a plane as terrorists attempt to hijack it, 7500‘s stripped-down approach only works for so long.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tobias Ellis, the co-pilot on a flight heading from Berlin to Paris during a stormy night. His girlfriend, Gokce (Aylin Tezel), happens to be one of the stewardesses aboard the plane, with whom he also has a child. And everything starts out business-as-usual, from boarding to take-off.
But once the plane is in the air, havoc ensues as three Islamic terrorists try to barge their way into the cockpit. One makes it inside. And from there, Tobias must struggle against life-or-death stakes to stop the ensuing threat, all from within the cockpit.
7500 is very clinical in its setup, which instills a genuine sense of dread from the outset. The film begins with security camera footage in the airport, as we follow one man through the entire pre-boarding process. There’s no sound, only an omniscient view. Following these images, we go right into the cockpit to meet Tobias and go through the motions of getting ready for boarding and take-off. There’s just enough time spent with these characters, who have no idea of what’s about to happen, to dramatically raise the stakes and our nervousness.
The tension is well-handled for about half the runtime, and the mounting pressure on Tobias as things progress is felt in Gordon-Levitt’s great unfurling performance. He conveys the protagonist’s emotional and physical pain well, without dipping into melodrama. And the cockpit-only setting does add a significant layer to the suspense. The only visual outside of it is video footage that shows the flight attendants’ area just on the other side of the cockpit door.
However, around the film’s midpoint, the tension begins to fizzle out as the proceedings become more predictable. Specific moments overstay themselves beyond the point of still being suspenseful, draining the film’s energy instead of building towards a climax. The discussions between Tobias and one of the hijackers (an effective Omid Memar) feel rather cliche for films of this type. It’s just one of those instances where good performances can only do so much with the diminishing returns of the script.
7500 does a lot very well, but it also falters in its second half enough to make this more of a mixed bag than a completely successful genre experiment. But if you’re a fan of claustrophobic thrillers and/or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it might be worth the watch. You just might get more out of it than I did.
7500 is rated R, and it will be available to stream on Amazon Prime starting June 18.
All images courtesy of Amazon.