Solo gigs in film are always a risky move, with the most crucial factor being if the film’s single performer has the charisma and the capacity to keep all eyes on them. Luckily, for 7500, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has it in spades and is giving everything he’s got in his turn as the lone pilot on the worst flight of his life. The frustration, however, is with the somewhat outdated plot and the lack of effort to add any bit of turbulence to everything else.
For those that don’t speak the lingo, 7500 is the code given to air traffic control by pilots in the event of a hijacking. Moments after takeoff and co-pilot Tobias (Gordon-Levitt) is piping it down the wire after a group of passengers on a flight from Berlin battle their way to the front of the plane attempting to take it over, incapacitating the captain. Now, Tobias must steady himself and the aircraft long enough for the authorities to devise a plan on the ground, while the enemy hammers at the door desperate to get in and finish the job they boarded for.
Simple in premise, 7500 marks a brave endeavour not just for its leading man, but also writer/director Patrick Vollrath who spreads his wings in this debut effort. The fresh filmmaker is determined to yank at the tension with everything he’s got, and given the subject matter, it’s not hard to do so. Vollrath packs you in like an in-flight meal with Tobias and Captain Michael, to begin with, as they go through the relevant checks before the wheels are up and things immediately nosedive into chaos.
Understandably, the scene evokes significant anxiety from not only 9/11 but the films it inspired (United 93 to be specific). Levitt fights tooth and nail to keep the enemy at bay and the situation under control, nailing the everyman element perfectly. Frantic and trying to stay calm under the hue of the CCTV monitor displaying what’s going on outside, the pressure is on and he portrays it brilliantly the confined space the film binds us to. Still, even with its lead giving it his all, the issue is with everything else around him that starts to give, because as compelling as its leading man may be, 7500 still hits bumps that should be easily avoided.
However intense the drama grows, the plan of characters on one side of the door to the other feels incredibly dated and ultimately saps interest and tension from the film as a whole. Vollrath tries to add some complexity by pushing on an emotional strain between Tobias and a member of the cabin crew, but it’s handled too lightly to make an impact when he twists the narrative knife. From there, things quickly become a by-the-numbers hostage thriller that you’re merely waiting to land. Be that as it may though, Gordon-Levitt gives it all he’s got Captain, keeping his hand on the stick to bring 7500 in for a safe landing. It’s just a shame at just how safe it all ends up being.