The new Amazon Original thriller, 7500, is the feature directorial debut of Patrick Vollrath; a German filmmaker most known for his award winning short films, including the Oscar nominated Everything Will Be Okay (2015). 7500 takes place almost exclusively in the cockpit, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring as a co-pilot named Tobias Ellis who must protect his flight from a group of hijackers. It’s a tense movie and nestles in well with the other claustrophobic thrillers of recent years.
One-location thriller films are great at building and holding suspense on a low budget scale. Green Room (2015), for example, takes place mostly at a Neo-Nazi bar as a band must fight for survival after witnessing a murder. There’s also, The Invitation (2015), which takes place exclusively at a dinner party, whose hosts are up to something sinister. 7500 separates itself with its confined setting of the airplane cockpit, which only grows more claustrophobic throughout the movie.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has the bulk of the film on his shoulders, being the central performer. Similar to Ryan Reynolds’ performance in the claustrophobic thriller Buried (2011), where he plays a trucker trapped in a coffin underground for the entire film. Or Tom Hardy’s dramatic one man show performance in Locke (2013), which takes place entirely in a car. Although the minor players here have more screen time than those two examples.
Levitt plays a tough balance here. A man who must remain calm despite the circumstances. The shots of Tobias don’t always feel cohesive with the cabin footage; shown through a security camera monitor inside the cockpit. This is likely because they were shot at different times and therefore the energy between them is sometimes mismatched. It could also be chalked up to Tobias fighting to keep his composure, even when the terrorists grow more irate and threatening.
The film’s first act expertly builds suspense. It opens with security camera footage inside the airport of the hijackers as they go through the boarding process. There’s eerie silence underneath the footage, and sound becomes such an integral element throughout the movie. Vollrath knows what he’s doing here. Following Hitchcock’s old adage of showing the bomb before it blows. Media has conditioned us to know they are up to something; it’s only a matter of time before they strike.
7500 then takes us through standard airplane procedure in the cockpit with Levitt and the pilot. This procedure, accurate or not, feels authentic. We learn about Tobias through his interactions with the pilot, and his girlfriend who is also a stewardess on the flight. The tension continues to build over these seemingly routine moments.
The flight then takes off, leaving the audience wondering when the hijack will take place. There are a couple great setup moments where it’s expected, but then turned in some way. This masterful tension that is captured in the film’s first act before it blows its bomb, is unmatched in the rest of the movie. There are suspenseful sequences certainly, but nothing quite reaches the suspense levels of the beginning. Which is unfortunate as the rest of the movie just sort of plods along with few surprises.
Another point of contention is the generic Muslim terrorist antagonist characters. There is some character building with the youngest of the group, Vedat played well by Omid Memar, but more so for plot reasons than organic character development. However, there is a great quiet dramatic moment between Memar and Levitt near the end of the film, that really brings both characters home and showcases both performers’ talents.
Not all of the conflicts and turns in the movie work. Even at around 90 minutes, it feels a bit overlong, but it’s entertaining and suspenseful overall. One can do worse if they’re looking for some new home entertainment. Fans of thrillers and especially single location or claustrophobic thrillers of recent years, will find some enjoyment here.