Amazon Studios’ 7500 is unlike most movies I have ever seen. It’s an action thriller that plays more like a dramatic stage play. There is no superhero nor is there any over-the-top special effects. There isn’t even a music soundtrack. Well, not really. Almost the entire film was shot within the confines of an airplane’s cockpit giving an uncomfortable sense of claustrophobia. Though it took weeks to film, 7500 feels like it was shot in real time giving a “you-are-there” feel.
From what I can tell, director Patrick Vollrath achieved what he set out to do and while I think the film would be best enjoyed in a large theater, something not available to us at the moment, it still played very well from my laptop computer at home. 7500 is riveting, unsettling and surprisingly redemptive.
Before anything happens, a quote from Gandhi is displayed on screen: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” This is the theme of the movie you are about to watch, but the quote is easily forgotten once the action starts.
Security camera footage of a Berlin airport is shown in black-and-white while the opening credits are displayed. No music or sound of any kind is played. It goes on for quite a while and you begin to wonder if you are supposed to notice anything unusual. But I think it was just to show that the film begins like any other routine night flight. The title 7500 comes on the screen (7500 is the traffic control code for a hijacking) there is a blackout and then the action turns to the cockpit.
Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an American pilot seen entering the cockpit. We aren’t given a lot of information about the guy or why he is flying planes in another country. However, we quickly learn that he is the boyfriend of Gökce (Aylin Tezel), a flight attendant and the two have a young son together. Then we meet German pilot Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger), the two men give their dinner order to the stewardess and the flight commences.
After only a few minutes up in the air, this routine flight takes a nose dive when terrorists force their way into the cockpit. Armed with homemade weapons fashioned from broken glass, the terrorist stab Michael and cut Tobias’ arm. While Tobias is able to subdue the men and secure the cockpit, his co-pilot is hurt badly. While Tobias is calling traffic control for help, the terrorists are banging on the door demanding to get in. Tobias is told to not let anyone in the cockpit and he has no intention to. Then the terrorists threaten to kill passengers if he does not let them in. At this point, he can only see the hijackers from the grainy black-and-white video camera and can speak to them on the phone.
One of these terrorists is Vedat (Omid Memar) who is only 18 years of age and is clearly over his head. Through a series of events, Vedat and Tobias will engage in conversation with Vedat’s actions bouncing back and forth between rage and panic.
This is all sounds like spoilers, but it’s all there in the movie trailer. This is all set up to give a “what would you do” feel. Gordon-Levitt’s Tobias is mostly an everyday guy. Skilled in his job and functional during a crisis, but still very human and emotional. He doesn’t come across as most of the action heroes that we are used to seeing on the big screen nor is he given any cliché, cheesy lines to say.
Unlike other films that take place on a plane, we never see any of the passengers sitting in the cabin. We also don’t see much of anything of how they are handling this hijacking. It’s a very intimate film. Much of the dialogue and action doesn’t feel scripted. That’s because a lot of it wasn’t according to press materials. Vollrath let the actors improvise many of the scenes and he kept the footage that he felt seemed the most natural. The interactions between Tobias and Vedat are just as real and awkward as they are intense. It is through these conversations that Tobias learns that Vedat just might be a lot more human than he first thought.
Vollrath has said that while he wanted to create an exciting thriller, he also wanted to audiences to stop and think about how unhelpful revenge can be. He acknowledges that revenge is often the first reaction humans have when faced with unprovoked acts of violence. “To counter violence with violence is a very human reaction that cannot only be felt by individuals but by society as a whole. 7500 explores the dynamics of this vicious cycle and asks one of the toughest questions today: How can we break the circle of violence?”
(Main image: Amazon Studios)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.