Thrillers built around airplanes and travel come along every few years it seems. Sometimes we get winners Air Force One or Red Eye and sometimes we Snakes on a Plane. German director Patrick Vollrath's 7500 falls somewhere in between. It is a familiar but skillfully made thriller with a slightly problematic exploitation of Islamic extremists.
The film takes place entirely in the cockpit. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tobias, the co-pilot forced to deal with a terrorist attempt to take over and crash the plane. The film sets out to be a quick-paced nail-biter at only 90 minutes but while it starts strong, it doesn't know what to do with its second act. The very questionable portrayal of terrorists doesn't help things. The film never seems interested in any nuance to these antogonists, instead favoring the kind of cartoonish portrayal that was common of Russians in 1980's action films.
Levitt is a compelling screen presence here, often selling the desperation of someone left to save as many people as he can with little to no help. You feel the sense of pressure Tobias feels thanks to his committed performance. It helps keep the suspense up even when little is happening.
Director Vollrath makes a clear decision to let the film play out in mostly real time and to keep the camera locked into the cockpit. We see outside the cockpit only through a black and white video feed. These decisions are novel but hamper the film's middle act. On a technical level, 7500 is very strong featuring some great sound design that puts the viewer into the cockpit with Tobias. The lack of a score only accentuates the attempt to make this scenario as real as possible. However, some convenient plot devices ruin the illusion more than once.
Technically well made but underwritten, 7500 is an often exciting but empty watch. I wish the screenplay had taken more interest in creating real characters rather than pawns in service of plot. Tobias goes through some major loss in the film and yet it never feels impactful or real. This is because the film is never interested in any of its characters as real people. This is especially true of its villains. Still, at 90 minutes I was never bored and invested enough to want to see how everything plays out.