‘7500’: Usual plot, unusual impact

Joseph Gordon.

“7500” (film streaming on Amazon Prime); Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Aylin Tezel, Carlo Kitzlinger; Direction: Patrick Vollrath; Rating: * * * (three stars)

By Vinayak Chakravorty

So what is new about yet another hijack drama? You know the drill, right — a bunch of guys try taking over a plane and there will be a hero on board who will fight the odds. “7500” sticks to all of that, as well as every other genre formula loyally, start to end.

Yet, you are hooked to the storyline all through its 90-odd minutes of runtime. The proof of a good mainstream film often lies in how the story is told, more than what story it tells. German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath only underlines that fact, narrating the story with unconventional execution.

Vollrath takes you right into action zone. Barring a few opening shots of the airport that serve to set a backdrop of sorts, the entire film is set inside the locked cockpit of a plane. Despite shooting in close-ups of varying degrees, and with no change of location, the intrigue factor never drops.

A ‘7500′ is the code pilots use to inform Air Traffic Control that their plane has been hijacked. As far as titles go, Vollrath couldn’t have kept it more direct to declare his storytelling intention. The mood that the title sets is carried forward into the very basic storyline. A European flight take off from Berlin for Paris. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Tobias Ellis, co-pilot who will fly the plane for the particular trip. Brief interactions introduce us to Tobias’ senior in the cockpit, Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger), and his flight-attendant girlfriend (Aylin Tezel).

It does not take long for the terrorists to charge towards the cockpit, shortly after take-off. They have no guns or bombs or even knives. In the most imaginative twist to genre cliches of the hijack movie, the terrorists carry makeshift, but lethal, shards of glass as weapon.

The narrative is suitably paced. Even as Tobias manages to establish contact with ground staff, concurrent subtexts give the story a spin. If Vollrath takes the viewer right into the cockpit with his close-up technique, he leaves you feeling trapped in that locked-in space with the heavily wounded Tobias, fending against desperate criminal rage.

In sync with the minimal cinematography is the little or no use of background score, save the sounds you might hear inside a cockpit — the dull whirring of the engine outside, the occasional cackle of the phone, and the muted bleeps emanating from the dashboard quietly set up a sinister milieu, as Tobias plays for life.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt performs with trademark restraint, letting Tobias leave an understated impact even when he is literally pushed against the wall. His act sets up a fascinating contrast to that of Omid Memar as Vedat, the young and vulnerable one among the terrorists whom Tobias must manipulate if he must get his way. The exchanges of Tobias and Vedat remain a high point in the film, where dialogues play an important role in moving the story forward.

“7500” mixes raw realism with smart use of traditional formula to set up an unusual impact.