Review – ‘7500’

This film is a must-see for its originality. Patrick Vollrath’s 7500 separates itself from the played-out idea of terrorists hijacking airplanes, by showing us an airplane hijacking strictly from the pilot’s perspective. Previous films about terrorists seizing control of air carriers have either been from the perspective of a passenger, like Kevin Hooks’ Passenger 57 (1992) with Wesley Snipes or Wolfgang Petersen’s Air Force One (1997) with Harrison Ford, or an outside force miraculously working their way inside the plane to resolve the crisis, like Stuart Baird’s Executive Decision (1996) with Kurt Russell, or Menahem Golan’s The Delta Force (1986) with Chuck Norris. The logline of 7500 doesn’t give the film its due justice because what makes this film special is its point-of-view from the cockpit of the airplane. This tunnel vision enhances the frightening qualities that come with seeing up close, how surreal it is to be flying at such high altitudes, in conjunction with the suspension of information that results in a great mystery.

When a trio of German speaking, native Middle Eastern terrorists attempt to seize control of flight 7500 from Berlin to Paris, the young, gentle and low-keyed American co-pilot Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) brawls in scraps and scuffle’s with the hijackers trying to regain control of the aircraft and save the lives of the passengers. The drama and thrills intensify once we learn that a flight attendant aboard the plane is secretly Tobias’ Turkish/German girlfriend who he shares a two-year old boy with. The twists keep tightening and the turns of the plot keep swerving as Tobias shapes an unforeseen bond with one of the terrorists, begging for assistance in saving everyone’s life.  

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” This is the opening quote by Mahatma Gandhi, placed as a title card over a black screen as it fades into surveillance footage of the airport showing a freeze frame of a Middle Eastern man at the Security Check-In. Two others follow, being screened and admitted into the boarding area. The Middle Eastern men buy bottles of liquor from the gift shops and enter the men’s bathroom, coming out several minutes later carrying heavy backpacks, leading us to suspect that they’ve creatively manufactured weapons of their own. Setting up the concept that, there are other ways for terrorists to create small arms. This footage is shown over white noise on the soundtrack, which has an enhanced effect of suspense. These are inventive styles employed by the film’s director, Patrick Vollrath, who ingeniously shows us that you don’t necessarily need music in your film to enhance the thrills and suspense. The natural sound effects occurring in 7500 prove to be sufficient to entertain us throughout the 92-minute length of the film. Even without a musical score to accompany us, which is a startling fact that can go unnoticed. This movie has absolutely zero music.

A lot of the film is read with subtitles written in small font. Perhaps, to intentionally enhance eye-squinting by further heightening the suspense, while we attempt to decipher information about the terrorists communication with one another, as they speak German. Though it’s fictional and scripted, the dialogue and acting seems very realistic. It’s almost as if we’re taken behind the scenes inside the life of pilots. The plane takes off for real, and it’s frightening to see it travel through the misty clouds in the dark of night. Gordon- Levitt does an amazing job in his acting to show us a still, calm and patient demeanor in Tobias, but layered over uncertainty and fear, alert and aware of the dire consequences this situation presents.

Filmgoers are usually divided when it comes to their liking of claustrophobic set-ups in single perspective films that take place in one location. Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth (2002) with Colin Farrell mostly took place inside the booth, as well as David Fincher’s Panic Room (2002) with Jodie Foster and Steven Knight’s Locke (2013) with Tom Hardy driving in a car on the highway. In 7500, the camera stays in the cockpit and we see the surveillance monitor mounted on the wall showing us one angle of what’s occurring outside the cockpit door. The mystery is intensified because the suspension of information in what’s happening with the terrorists and passengers outside the cockpit are left for our imaginations to conjure up. Patrick Vollrath shows that we don’t always need subplots with different perspectives, like terrorists roaming around the plane or passengers exchanging dialogue with takedown schemes, or cutting away with shots of airport control rooms grounded in towers or government agencies in offices, assisting with the crisis. In 7500, all the live action and sound effects consist of what’s being experienced by the pilots in the cockpit. Vollrath shows us how intense the situation can be by suspending everything else and just showing us the pilots world, through their eyes.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance is wholly convincing and deeply passionate. He reacts to every crisis in the film with realistic patience; it takes him several minutes for everything to sink in. Had this film been merely about a co-pilot who saves the airplane from being seized by terrorists, would have been sub-par. But, since the pilot has a connection to the attendant – his girlfriend, in addition to building a bond with one of the hijackers, it heightens the situation. This is an intense film with a great deal of unexpected twists and turns. Whether due to budgetary constraints that spawn unconventional filmmaking or intentionally choosing to be unorthodox, 7500 takes place in a cockpit without music or sound affects because the dangers of the situation are so extreme, it’s deemed unnecessary to show the audience any other point-of-view.

This film is the best example of the meaning behind the concept of “less is more.” German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath proved that music isn’t always necessary in a film. The sounds of the airplane, the terrorists banging on the door, the violence, blood, threats, the suspense, the mystery, it all keeps us heightened until the end. You can’t take your eyes off of the screen. We have one perspective, the cockpit. Multiple perspectives and points of view in a terrorist hijacking film in conjunction with a musical score would have made the film a rip-off of other airplane terrorist pictures of cinema’s past. In 7500, these uniquely different traits separate itself from those previously mentioned pictures, causing it to be innovative and as a result, evoking the experience of different emotions for the viewer.

However, 7500 regressively pushes stereotypes with its villains by depicting Arabs as religious fanatics and terrorists, yet again. But, the film puts a spin on it; these are Arab/Germans who grew up in Europe. Regardless of the spin, this tactic used was a hackneyed idea that’s a cliched formula to typecast a population of 400 million Arabs around the world, pigeonholing them into Islamic terrorism when there are millions of Arabs that are Christians, Jewish, or non-religious, who have obtained successful careers of high status in their respective states. Perhaps, the creation of a pseudo-ethnicity with a fabricated language would have resulted in a fair depiction of the villains in 7500, without regressively typecasting the banality of the film’s transgressors, by having them blatantly chant Islamic sayings we’ve heard perpetually since decades ago. After all, what makes 7500 a cerebral suspenseful thriller is its unorthodox approach to filmmaking, not necessarily its subject matter.

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