Acclaimed short film director Patrick Vollrath makes the jump to features with 7500, a claustrophobic real-time thriller set (almost) entirely within the cockpit of an Airbus A319. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Tobias, a young co-pilot who becomes trapped when a group of terrorists attempt to hijack the plane during a late night Berlin-to-Paris flight. 7500 gets off to an engaging start, but sadly Vollrath’s thriller begins to outstay its welcome as it approaches the half-way point.
This German production is a film which is as stripped down as the plot suggests. A skeleton crew of a cast, no score and essentially one set means that it has a realistic quality which is ultimately a double-sided sword. The opening where Tobias and the plane’s Captain (Carlo Kitzlinger – a former real-life pilot) prepare the plane for take-off is engaging stuff indeed. I can only imagine these realistic exchanges offer the audience a fly-on-the-wall look at the inner-workings of a cockpit. This strong sense of realism therefore makes the film’s plot contrivances stand-out like a sore thumb. Characters are knocked-out and wake-up depending on what Vollrath and co-writer Senad Halilbasic need to happen at any given time. With a plot this bare, there’s nowhere to hide something as obvious as this. It gets to the point where it just comes across as silly.
The performances in 7500 are all above board, but hardly anything awards worthy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt acquits himself well as the conflicted young pilot whose girlfriend (and the mother of his child) is trapped outside with the terrorists. The biggest challenge Gordon-Levitt has to face here is that the 39 year old actor is pretending to be 31! Omid Memar is also good as the equally conflicted 18 year-old terrorist who doesn’t quite understand the gravity of his grave situation. As good as they are, they’re just characters serving a story. The most notable character trait for Gordon-Levitt’s Tobias is that he doesn’t speak German. Even the motivations of the Muslim terrorists is sketchy and they come across as clumsy stereotypes, rent-a-villains for connivence sake. This isn’t just lazy filmmaking, it’s down-right dangerous in the current world climate.
Competently made and acted, 7500 simply fails to take flight. What could have been a taught thriller becomes bogged down in poor characterisation and flimsy plotting. There’s simply not enough there to maintain a ninety minute feature (something which gives away Vollrath’s origins in short filmmaking). If you’re looking for a claustrophobic thriller look elsewhere, as sadly 7500 is mainly for Joseph Gordon-Levitt completists only.