By Lynn Venhaus
On a routine Airbus flight from Berlin to Paris, terrorists try to seize control of the plane, but the mild-mannered American co-pilot Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to thwart the chaos, struggling to save the lives of the 85 passengers and small crew.
The code for a hijacked airplane is 7500, hence the title. This straightforward suspense has nearly all its action contained in the cockpit, which makes it taut – and claustrophic. First-time feature director Patrick Vollrath co-wrote the script with Senad Halilbasic, and they make sure it’s gritty instead of a slick Hollywood film. In fact, you will question decisions made by the characters.
Smaller in scale but gripping nonetheless, the film takes a procedural approach, detailing the initial steps of the terrorists as they move through the airport and the two pilots as they check off their lists of to-dos. Flight-attendant Gokce (Aylin Tezel) is Tobias’ baby mama, they have a 2-year-old, but they are low-key about their relationship when working together. After Tobias is injured, his arm slashed when the hijackers stormed the cockpit, he contacts ground control and plans an emergency landing in Hanover. Their pleas for him to open the door are unmet, so they kill a passenger and threaten more carnage. That sets off a chain of excruciating life-or-death struggles.
Vollrath, Oscar-nominated for a German short film, “Everything Will Be OK,” realistically builds tension. The script leaves key details out, so we are forced to use our imagination. It is specifically vague, which can be frustrating.
It’s also intense and bloody, ramping up the anxiety and the violence.
Projecting calm at times while other moments are anguished, Gordon-Levitt is quite strong as the conflicted Tobias. He hasn’t been seen on the big screen in a feature since 2016’s “Snowden,” although he has done voice work and some TV. In fact, he is nominated for a Daytime Emmy as host of the Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Special. Here, he effectively carries the movie, keeping us riveted to the action in the cockpit.
The stretch to the ending is wobbly and lacks a definitive punch. Had the finale packed as much as the terrifying take-over of the plane, we’d really have something here, instead of a routine skyjacking with a few nail-biting scenes.
“7500” is a thriller directed by Patrick Vollrath and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aylin Tezel, Carlo Kitzlinger. It’s rated R for violence/terror and language, and run time is 92 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: B-
Amazon Prime original available June 19
A version of this review is online at the Webster-Kirkwood Times.