Directed By Patrick Vollrath
Starring – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Aylin Tezel
The Plot – An in the air thriller told from the cockpit. A flight from Berlin to Paris. Everyday routine in the cockpit of an Airbus A319. Co-pilot Tobias Ellis (Levitt) is preparing the plane for take-off, which then follows without incident. Then we hear shouting in the passenger cabin. A group of young men try and storm the cockpit, among them 18-year old Vedat (Memar). A fight begins between crew and attackers, with the desire on the one hand to save individual lives and on the other to avert an even bigger catastrophe. The cockpit door becomes a battleground, and Tobias ends up being the arbiter over life and death.
Rated R for violence/terror and adult language
– One stage setting. The one brilliant exception to the film’s ingenuity that made it stand out from its predecessors is the entirety of this film taking place inside of this claustrophobic cockpit, which allows the screenplay to bottle up as much anxiety and uncertainty as one could hope from a suspenseful thriller. Stitched together with a video monitor in the cockpit that vividly illustrates what we’re not privy to as a result of spending the entirety of the movie in the front of the plane, the film harvests the riveting nature of uncertainty, and how vulnerable those in charge are when they figuratively and quite literally can’t interpret what is taking place behind them at all times. Visually, it conveys an urgency of inevitability that makes this clash feel imminent despite that being what we already expected, but artistically it wields the danger banging down our door consistently, ratcheting our nerves for the struggle of who will break first between our protagonist or the strength of the door that separates him from his captors.
– Informatively faithful. Very few movies taking place in the air rarely ever depict piloting in a way that makes it one of the more uniquely difficult career paths that one can choose, but “7500” diverts from this precedent, giving us plenty of food for thought along the way that makes it difficult not to appreciate these stallions of the sky for the responsibilities they harvest every single day. The intelligence is certainly there, unapologetically taking us through the many safety precautions and checks that go into each flight, which colorfully establishes how important their routine is. But for me, it’s the unspoken bond between co-pilots, in that they’re constantly putting their lives and the hundreds of passengers lives in each others hands at all times, and never diminishing that weight despite how many times this mundane routine feels commonplace to them at this point. I appreciate a movie that takes ample time conveying an already difficult mission before the terrorist ever strikes, etching out a respect for the craft that Vollrath emits in an introduction that would otherwise be used for heavy exposition dumps.
– Natural characterization. Speaking of introductory exposition, I loved that the initial meetings between pilots replicated our introduction to each of the characters, carving them out in a way that relayed information accordingly without feeling desperate or forced. The conversations attain a sincerity to their exchanges that legitimately feel like two co-workers meeting for the first time, despite each of their combined air time solidifying anything but, and the information attained nourishing a level of basic quality that doesn’t dig too deep where it doesn’t necessarily need to. It gives us just enough to outline a general figure who we plan to spend 88 heart-pounding minutes with, all the while feeding into the authenticity for the film’s presentation that transcends that cinematic quality that we expect from fiction.
– Cerebral performances. Gordon-Levitt is once again exceptional here, maintaining an evolution in attitude that brings forth no shortage of calm, empathy, confusion, and even angst to what transpires. The everyman concept to the character’s stature was also appreciated in constantly keeping him fighting against the odds. He’s no physical presence or secretively gifted fighter like a Liam Neeson movie, instead wearing his vulnerability like one of the many pins that his character wears for his years of service in the air, and it gives a very humanistic quality to Levitt that makes him easily one of the more accessible actors working currently. Another surprising turn that took place in the film’s final half hour was that of Omid Memar as this youthful soldier within this terrorist group. In a movie that does him zero favors in making his background anything but conventional, Memar instills an air of heart and regret that really dares you to see him particularly in ways you didn’t see his partners, and also adds towards the dynamic between he and Levitt that helps drive this mental tug-of-war into something sentimentally frail that I truly wasn’t expecting.
– Musical absence. The entirety of the film persists without even a hint of instrumental accompaniment, choosing instead to harvest emotional influence in ways that charm us with creativity instead of meandering. Instead of post-production enhancements, we are very much treated to sounds within the elements of this one-stage setting, granting us an immersive quality to the film that reciprocates what the claustrophobic cinematography is showing. The ever-increasing volume of the many monitors blaring their warnings clashes brilliantly with the constant banging on the door that eats away at Levitt’s seated safety net, building a conceirto of constant panic that reaches suffocating levels of terrifying reality. It leaves its minimal budget on the other areas of production where it’s more needed, and doesn’t sacrifice any of the climatic tension because of its instrumental absence that would take away from its environmental authenticity.
– Production quirks. It’s hard to believe this is Vollrath’s debut feature presentation, because the choices made with the film’s presentation and script uncertainty polish the experience of a decades long veteran who knows what buttons of creativity to push. His decision for a natural lighting element within this cockpit of the plane is one that didn’t go unnoticed by me, and really adds an air of omnousness that shadows around our protagonist as the numbers constantly work against his favor. Likewise, the long, meandering shots with a lack of edits during the film’s opening moments colorfully play into the detective frame of mind that the movie immediately puts us in, where our curriosity for the terrorist dares you to judge a book by its cover. It’s unfortunate where this gimmick leads to, but I commend the movie for these subtle touches that play against conventions, and give us an experience that pushes us to get involved in the narrative beyond an entertaining experience.
– Necessary plot conveniences. As something that is typically marred by me for feeling like a predictably necessity to advance the plot, the conveniences in the movie, one involving Levitt’s on-screen girlfriend, and one involving an antagonist’s breaching of the cockpit door, are established in a way that feels enriched in reality, satisfying us in ways that goes far beyond the punch we come to expect. Once the obvious intentions surface for such devices, there’s more of an unforeseen boom that happens moments later that we weren’t expecting, giving these spare instances a pass because of what’s established after they ceremoniously come to fruition. Aside from that, everything that happens as a result are filled with consequential heft that not only keeps the story shifting towards a sentimental resolve, but also prove as a big bang towards a wider spectrum that is often moves ahead of our frustrated protagonist.
– Derivative. One unfortunate aspect that the movie can never escape is its redundant screenplay that feels cherry-picked from the better films of airplane hijacking genre. This is realized through a screenplay that values anxiety over dramatic pulse, leading to very few moments of prolonged mental anguish that works against the film’s abruptly fast pacing. More times than not, this movie writes itself into a condensed corner that allows it very little wiggle room of spontaneity to play against the predictability that eventually catches up to it. This makes so much of the film’s second half a formulaic and safely paved path where more compelling films before it lit the way, keeping “7500” from ever elevating beyond its cruising altitude, which makes much of the movie’s key moments enriched with layers of familiarity.
– On the nose antagonists. This one really pains me, because I thought we got over ethnical stereotyping ten years ago, but found out with this movie that it’s very prominent in today’s cinematic social landscape. Without surprise what so ever, the hijackers are of course Muslim. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they prescribed the cultural rendering with anything unconventionally vast from what we’ve come to expect. There’s an adverse effect to focusing everything entirely from the protagonist’s point of view, in that we find out very little depth from his opposition that makes them even remotely compelling, making this another tired exercise in post-9/11 fictional therapy that only adds to the general misunderstanding. I’m not saying this movie selfishly made this error with evil intentions, but its irresponsibility will keep anyone from boarding a plane from ever thinking anything other than this one-direction when seeing a Muslim passenger.
– Climax misplacement. “7500” has with it what I consider to be a satisfying and turbulent climatic struggle that serves as the culmination of the chess game taking shape in the foreground. The problem is that it happens at what is later discovered as the film’s midway point, and renders the final forty minutes served as a screechingly halted afterthought that relentlessly challenges the pacing up to that point. The first fifty minutes are a bit too quick for my taste, but satisfying to anyone who loves a story that is constantly engaged in moving forward. But the film’s less than stellar second half can never catch up, nor does it ever try to. Instead, it knows the script’s best moments are behind it, and while the closing moments give us spare instances of impact permanency, it’s in between this pacing that feels strained as much as our interest in waiting for the film’s final resolution.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-