Airplanes are inherently claustrophobic settings, but 7500 ups the paranoia by restricting our main character to the cockpit. With exception to the opening credits, director Patrick Vollrath’s film is almost entirely confined to this one area. 7500 has echoes of other thrillers like Air Force One, Non-Stop, and Flightplan, but with less legroom and therefore less time to relax. It also shares parallels to Steven Knight’s Locke, which strapped viewers in for a feature-length car ride alongside Tom Hardy. Like Locke, this film makes the most of its limited setting and is largely carried by its reliable leading man.
For whatever reason, Joseph Gordon-Levitt hasn’t had a starring film role since 2016’s Snowden. His cameos in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Knives Out don’t count. It’s not like we needed a reminder after this four-year absence, but 7500 further confirms that Gordon-Levitt is among our finest actors, not to mention one of the most underrated. Gordon-Levitt plays Tobias Ellis, an American co-pilot flying from Berlin to Paris. Also onboard is his girlfriend and the mother of their young son (Aylin Tezel). Everything seems to be running smoothly until the flight is hijacked by terrorists who’ve constructed makeshift weapons from broken glass.
One terrorist manages to make it into the cockpit before Tobias seals the door shut. Following a scuffle, the pilot is left mortally wounded and the terrorist is knocked out. As the other terrorists relentlessly try to open the door, Tobias attempts to get the plane to safety. Through a single TV screen, Tobias can observe what’s happening just outside of the cockpit. In that sense, 7500 is also reminiscent of Panic Room. Of course, Jodie Foster’s panic room wasn’t over 30,000 miles in the air.
Gordon-Levitt’s performance makes us feel the weight of the world bearing down on Tobias. In addition to landing the plane, Tobias must remain cautious of the terrorist restrained in the corner. Matters become especially tense when the terrorists start taking hostages, threatening to slit throats if Tobias doesn’t open the door. On more than one occasion, Tobias is given an impossible decision that’s bound to end in tragedy no matter what he does. Tobias refreshingly never turns into a John McClane-Esque action hero who comes out of every situation on top. Tobias knows that he’s in a vulnerable position and often feels powerless, but he refuses to go down without a fight.
While 7500 is a worthy addition to the plane hijacking genre, it’s not a flawless one. Even at only 92 minutes, the film feels about ten minutes too long. The last third is where the story starts to fly around in circles. There’s a twist regarding the youngest terrorist (Omid Memar), although this character and his dynamic with Tobias could’ve used deeper development. The exact motivations of the terrorists are mostly unclear, leaving something to be desired. Even if it’s not without a few bumps, though, 7500 is a consistently thrilling flight that ultimately succeeds in sticking the landing.
Available on Amazon Prime starting Thursday, June 18.