Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 7500 (2019, streaming on Amazon Prime) is a film about an airplane hijacking told from the viewpoint of one of the pilots. Though it’s somewhat predictable and its message gets muddied in the last act, I thought it was extremely tense and overall well done, and Gordon-Levitt really shines in the role. (This movie should not be confused with Flight 7500, which is a supernatural horror movie; 7500 is the code used to alert ground control that hijackers are onboard, which explains why it’s used in the titling for both movies.)
The story begins with Captain Lutzmann and First Officer Ellis (Gordon-Levitt) preparing for a flight from Berlin to Paris. Ellis has a brief conversation with a flight attendant onboard, who turns out to be his girlfriend with whom they share a child. After takeoff, terrorists storm the cockpit, resulting in a very tense standoff.
The film does a good job putting you in an airplane, from the ever-present aerosol hum to cinema-verite view of cockpit procedures. In fact, the entire film takes place in the cockpit. When the standoff begins, Ellis has a range of tools: a locked door, camera showing him what’s happening right outside the cockpit, flight controls, intercom/phone/radio. This both provides interesting weapons he can use but is also limiting in that you know he must fail so as to keep the story going. What’s particularly interesting is the method the terrorists use to control the passengers, which easily bypasses weapons screening, and how they are able to storm the cockpit, both of which reveal very real vulnerabilities with plane security.
While the story design is largely unavoidably predictable, the director nonetheless pulls off a huge amount of tension with some nice surprises and a fairly high degree of realism, and Gordon-Levitt was particularly good, balancing professional competence with a great deal of humanity as he struggles to deal with his horrifying situation.
7500 is criticized for its last act, where we get to learn more about the hijackers. They’re not exactly stereotypes, but their political aims are vague, and a hijacker we’re supposed to sympathize with and see the humanity of fails to come across as somebody we can truly understand and care about, at least that was my reaction. Some critics felt the film tries to get us to like one of them, though I didn’t see it that way. The film overall has a message that hate begets hate in a cycle, and real humanity is expressed by making it stop.
Overall, 7500 was surprisingly good. While its message again gets muddied and it’s unavoidably predictable, the immersion, tension, and excellent acting make it one to watch.