7500 Review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Delivers a Taut Performance in Amazon's Latest Original

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If you're in the market for a fast-moving thriller, you need to make time for Amazon Prime's 7500 this weekend.

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an airline pilot with his finger on the button of a life or death situation, the 90-odd minutes of running time flies.

7500 is simple and succinct and possibly one of the best "bottle" films you'll see this year.

7500 Poster

Gordon-Levitt plays Tobias Ellis, an American living and working in Germany. He's preparing for his flight alongside his girlfriend and mother of his child, Gökce (Aylin Tezel), a relationship they keep on the down-low to maintain professionalism.

They're discussing their impending purchase of a new house and how exciting it will be for their son to have room to grow and play.

Michael Comes Aboard

Tobias and his captain, Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger), wait for late passengers, passing the time by prepping the flight deck and joking about teaching the late-comers a lesson.

It's a normal day of air travel.

At the same time, the audience is privy to the security process at the airport, who's waiting at the gates, and watching passengers board. Clues in that footage suggest that what is about to happen will be anything but normal.

Early into the flight, the cockpit is infiltrated in an attempted hijacking, a code 7500 in air-travelese.

Security Footage

Suddenly, Tobias is the gatekeeper for all of the lives on board as well as his own, as he fights to maintain control of the flight and guide it to safety.

Initially, there is a grave urgency to his actions, and it's impossible not to see similarities to the real-life tragedy of Flight 93 on 9/11.

But while that flight (and the movie documenting it) focused on the valiant passengers turned heroes who sacrificed themselves for the greater good, 7500 tells a similar story from the perspective of the pilots and remaining behind impenetrable doors.

Because once the action ceases and the psychological game between the hijackers and the pilots begin, the whole ball of wax falls into the capable hands of Gordon-Levitt as the most important decisions fall on Tobias' shoulders.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tobias

It's the first full-length feature for German filmmaker, Patrick Vollath, and the suspense he builds within that claustrophobic, confined space miles into the air sets you on the edge of your seat.

There's no less tension once the movie turns from action to psychological thriller, either, even if there are a few tropes that weigh down the experience just a tad.

Because while there are some basic indicators of what's to come, Vollath doesn't allow his hero to succumb to boorish behavior in an attempt to save the day.

Tobias acts naturally in his unnatural environment, using every skill in his human and professional arsenal to mitigate the situation; he never dons a cape to become a hero, he just does his job, helpless to do much more from the confines of the cockpit.

Flirty Behavior

The tension rises with his unremarkable behavior; the more he acts like you and me, the easier it is to imagine yourself in his place.

That we're watching him on a screen while he's watching the flight beyond the cockpit on a small screen, as well, adds to the feeling of helplessness.

Substituting screenshots, black and white, and somewhat blurred, for all activities outside of the cockpit highlights the unsettling feeling of being trapped in a tin-can alone against the people who are trying to end your life.

It's eerily effective and when you add in the persistent pounding on the door, a nagging sensation of dread falls over you as you await resolution.

Cockpit Video

The film starts with a saying by Gandhi: An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.

If that saying would have been all that we knew of the hijackers, that they were on an errant quest for vengeance, the film would have been better for it.

The most glaring misstep that Vollath takes is by identifying his hijackers as Muslim and assigning the youngest of the three to question his convictions at zero-hour.

It's a feeble attempt for sympathy that doesn't quite land, and the urgency of the movie falters in the later scenes because of it.

A Hard Day's Work

But the cramped setting and the restrained agony Tobias feels as he grapples with everybody's worst nightmare are skillfully explored, Vollath's stunning debut time very well spent.

7500 premieres on Amazon Prime on Thursday, June 18.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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