‘7500’ review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt returns in a Spielbergian hijacking thriller

Cinema's most likable everyman is back with his first film in three years

Former teen heartthrob Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows us a different kind of action hero in 7500, German director Patrick Vollrath’s taut, old-fashioned thriller for Amazon Prime Video. He plays an under-pressure pilot whose plane is hijacked by terrorists in his first film for three years.

After some ominous airport CCTV footage of passengers strolling through a Berlin airport, we’re crammed into the cockpit of a flight from the German capital to Paris. Tobias (Gordon-Levitt) is seconding Michael, the experienced captain (played by former pilot Carlo Kitzlinger), while our man is also joined by his stewardess girlfriend Gökçe (Aylin Tezel). After a smooth, painless takeoff, we’re lulled into a fleeting false sense of security until the plane gets hijacked by a trio of Islamic extremists.

7500 mostly takes place inside Tobias and Michael’s cockpit – and Vollrath makes excellent use of that confined space to give viewers a terrifying sense of the claustrophobia they experience. As the plot unfolds in real time, terrorist leader Kenan (Murathan Muslu) breaks into the pilot’s domain and all hell breaks loose in a tense early sequence. It is not a bloodless coup and Tobias’ mettle is tested as well as his flying skills.

There are several contemporary plane hijacking films out there already, from Paul Greengrass’ excellent fact-based 9/11 drama United 93 to the forgettable Liam Neeson vehicle Non-Stop. 7500, however, feels like it could have been made in the 1970s. The way it never deviates from its clear narrative intention might remind some of Duel, Steven Spielberg’s feature debut about a man being terrorised by a truck. Some may quibble with the one-dimensional Muslim attackers and also consider this a throwback to less enlightened times.

7500
Hijackers threaten the plane’s crew. Credit: Amazon

Three years since Gordon-Levitt led Oliver Stone’s underwhelming Snowden, the actor reminds us of the easy charisma and un-showy ability that endeared us to him in his best films, such as Looper and Inception. While the film may contain a series of very predictable developments, Tobias remains a likeable gent we can empathise with. He’s the everyman for an uncertain and confusing 2020 rather than an action hero who uses brute force as the answer to everything, dispensing with bad guys and worse puns with ease. That aside, in the meathead parlance of our times, does he even lift, bro? It doesn’t look like it.

Gordon-Levitt’s fundamental goodness and 7500’s tight focus makes for a quietly compelling experience. There’s no waffle about motivation or backstory, we just bang through it until we’re done. The final scene and shot, simple as it is, is a triumph on these terms when so many other thrillers end with a superfluous epilogue.

Details

  • Director: Patrick Vollrath
  • Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Passar Hariky, Omid Memar
  • Released: June 18 (Digital)
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