During the pandemic, for whatever reason and perhaps against better judgement, I have watched many disaster movies. Perhaps it is to feel better knowing that things could be a lot worse, but the truth is they have made me feel perhaps more queasy than they would have under normal circumstances. This can be said of the compact hijacking thriller 7500, which didn’t really give me the peace of mind that the world can be a better place.
7500 takes place almost real time, following a young co-pilot named Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on a normally run-of-the-mill commercial flight from Berlin to Paris. He and the captain (Carlo Kitzlinger) go through small talk and flight checklists, chat with the flight attendants (one of whom is Tobias’ girlfriend with whom he shares a young son), and just do their job. Once the flight has lifted off into the dark, rainy night, things quickly go awry when a group of terrorists storm the cockpit at the first open-door opportunity (post-9/11, the cockpit has a locked, secure door), and try to take over the plane. Luckily, the pilots manage to keep all but one of the men out before they are able to lock the door, but not before the captain is mortally wounded, leaving Tobias alone with an unconcious terrorist and a bunch of men pounding on the door in fury to get in.
It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize that 7500 is a chamber piece… or maybe rather a cockpit piece. The entire film takes place in a claustrophobic environment, sticking entirely to Tobias’ immediate surroundings as he tries to keep control of the flight, figuratively and literally. Cleverly, director Patrick Vollrath makes the action seem “bigger” by having Tobias interact with the terrorists and their actions via a security camera monitor, showing the action just on the other side of the door. Combine that with effective sound design—as wounded Tobias tries to maintain control in a super-stressful situation, it sure doesn’t help to have that relentless, terrifying pounding on the door—the film effectively makes you squirm for almost the entire runtime.
7500 is an efficient nail-biting thriller. Gordon-Levitt proves again his appeal as a relatable, nerdy every-man that may not have the brawn of a superhero, but has the smarts (we hope!) to make the best of a situation. Clocking in at about 90 minutes, the film’s momentum only falters a bit in the last portion of the film. Until then though, I felt like deploying an escape slide and jumping out of the plane to relieve some of the stress.
[It must also be noted that another squirm-inducing aspect of the film is that the terrorists are, yes, your default Islamic terrorists. The tone of the film is very United 93, but of course almost 20 years later. They have vague demands—just, you know, revenge against the Western world—and all I kept thinking was that films like that just add fuel to the fire in modern cultural/religious/racial tensions. Ugh.]