7500 Movie Review: Largely Free of Turbulence

German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath makes a promising debut with a flight-hijacking thriller that strives for realism and mostly succeeds.
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Unlike other movies based on flight-hijacking - Air Force OnePassenger 57, Operation Thunderbolt, or say Non-stop - in which the rescue efforts comprise the majority of the narrative, here is a film that observes the tension from the viewpoint of pilot, who is usually the first one to die in such films. Moreover, like the protagonist of 7500, Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an American co-pilot on board the flight from Berlin to Paris, we see the proceedings outside the cockpit only through a TV. The story-telling choice, which confines us to the cockpit for 99.2% of the runtime, invigorates the film to a major extent, if not making it a thriller for ages.

Patrick Vollrath, known for his Academy Award-nominated 30-minute short film, Everything Will Be Okay in 2015, makes an assuring debut with a 90-minute anxiety-ridden film. Opening with CCTV footage (the only time we do not see the cockpit, the 0.8%) from the Berlin airport, that focuses on a few typical men with a stiff expression on their faces that say ‘I’m going to hijack the plane’, the film then shifts to the cockpit, where we would stay till the film cuts to black. The initial 20 minutes do what a good first act is supposed to - introduce the character, add a sprinkle of background information, and weave it with a little motivation, so we can guess the choices they make in the dire situation to follow. Along with Tabois is his girlfriend, Gokce (Aylin Tezel), the mother of his two-year-old son, who is also the flight attendant, and an experienced German pilot, Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger). The film builds tension through the sense of anxiety that something sinister is going to happen, which wafts through these 20 minutes. 

When hell breaks loose after a point, like Tobias, we are yet to get hold of the situation in chaos, and the film’s most intriguing when the hijacking situation sends ripples of fear from the other side of the cockpit. Tobias passes on the message, the eponymous 7500, a code in aviation to report aircraft hijacking, and continues to coordinate with the ground crew. Adding to the burden, we are aware of the personal stakes the hero’s got in the form of his girlfriend. At least for the first half of the film, Tobias’ helplessness over the situation is evident, with the captain severely wounded and his girlfriend taken hostage, he is no Liam Neeson, and that’s where the film sets itself from the popcorn thrillers. Although locked in the cockpit, the defenseless protagonist is exposed in all his vulnerability and the valiance is kept bare minimal. He never fights back. This is not that kind of film where the hero kicks ass, breaks bones of the hijackers, and emerges savior.

Vollrath, who co-wrote the film with Senad Halilbasic, spares no effort to keep things realistic and succeeds for the most part of it. On the other hand, the antagonists exist merely as a bunch of caricatures who only disturb the path of the narrative and flight, literally, but with little to no effect in spite of continually indulging in browbeating. The only one whom the script allows to make a mark is Vedat (Omid Memar, who receives the second credit), but the 18-year-old terrorist recruit with serious mood swings is more annoying than intimidating. In a scene halfway through the film, Tobias tries to convince Vedat to stop his fellow terrorists from killing passengers. “You are better than he is. You can stop this. I can see you don’t want to do this,” tells Tobias. I couldn’t fathom whether it was authentic or a try at the emotional manipulation of a shit-scared teenager. Despite the shortcomings that diminish the overall impact, 7500 is largely free of turbulence and is never humdrum, thanks to the high stakes and short runtime.

The film leverages its strength, the singular physically constricted setting to the fullest, without giving a sense of monotony. Vollrath succeeds in mounting a fine thriller, but had he not shied away from punching in our guts, 7500 would have been a masterclass in tension-building. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of adrenaline-driven fun to be had here.

Amazon Studios will release 7500 on Prime Video June 18th, 2020

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