Trying to tell a single-setting story in real-time is asking for trouble. Such narrative handcuffs limit the arsenal of a filmmaker and the new Amazon release 7500 proves it. This story of a pilot who must fend off a terrorist attack in the sky is told from takeoff to emergency landing in a mere 92 minutes. Yet, the limitations of setting, action, and character mar it almost from the start and the film lurches through its truncated running time. The ever-reliable Joseph Gordon- Levitt gives a fully committed performance as an intrepid pilot, but he’s simply not enough for this thriller to ever truly soar.
The title “7500” term is airline lingo for “I’ve been hijacked.” German captain Michael Lutzman (Carlo Kitzlinger) and his American co-pilot Ellis Tobias (Gordon-Levitt) think their flight from Germany to France is just a typical puddle jump. Before take-off, Ellis is even preoccupied with talking about schools for their young son with his flight attendant girlfriend Natalie (Aurelie Thepaut). She’s working the same flight, and soon enough all of their worlds will be upended when three Muslim terrorists storm the cockpit.
The terrorist leader Kenan (Murathan Muslu) manages to get inside before Ellis slams and locks the door. Kenan stabs Lutzman repeatedly and slices up Ellis too. Still, the wounded co-pilot manages to knock out the attacker and tie him up. The other two terrorists demand entrance even though Ellis knows airlines forbid such moves.
Ellis continues to be crafty, alerting the passengers that the terrorists only have glass shards to use as weapons from the wine bottle they broke off of the service cart. Unfortunately, the bad guys grab Natalie and threaten to cut her throat if her boyfriend doesn’t comply with their demands.
It’s a riveting, opening 30 minutes. Patrick Vollrath’s direction is taut and economical here, as is the script he co-wrote with Senad Halibasic. But alas, there’s still an hour left in the film, and the subsequent plot points are all too predictable and the movie starts to bore. The real-time machinations of waiting for instructions from ground control aren’t particularly dramatic either and it takes a decided toll on the tension. So too do the remaining characters screaming at each other over and over again in the confined cockpit. The story becomes a slog.
The most irritating part of the story concerns the emergence of the youngest terrorist named Vedat (Omid Memar) in the last two acts. He’s torn between loyalty to his cause and Ellis’ pleading for mercy. After a while, watching this naive terrorist agonize over his every decision becomes insufferable. I doubt most audiences will summon the sympathy for him the way the filmmakers intended.
There have been far better films about airline hijackings, from AIRPORT in 1970 to UNITED 93 in 2006. 7500 tries hard but placing a camera in a tiny cockpit with a couple of corpses and two guys screaming at each other for the majority of the movie just doesn’t cut it. Maybe this would’ve worked as a 30-minute short, but as a feature-length film, it simply does not fly.