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There are a lot of great movies that rise to the challenge of confined locations. From Lifeboat to Phone Booth, Panic Room or Buried, when a movie can sustain 90 minutes or more in a small space, it’s thrilling. 7500 technically maintains its story for 90 minutes, but has to make choices that sacrifice suspense or good will. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has no trouble carrying the whole movie, but he’s doing a lot of work for nothing. 

‘7500’ all takes place in a cockpit with Joseph Gordon-Levitt

7500 is a hijacking thriller entirely confined to the cockpit of the plane. The beginning of the movie establishes the characters and procedures of piloting. Tobias (Gordon-Levitt) is a copilot to Michael Lutzmann (Carlo Kitzlinger). Tobias lives with flight attendant Gokce (Aylin Tezel) and they have a son together. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 7500
Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Amazon Studios

Tobias and Michael banter as they get through the industry procedure. It would be understandable if the technicalities of FAA regulations paid off in the fim, but they’re really just there to show that the pilots have a sense of humor about formalities. For as much time as they spend debating whether to remove the luggage of two passengers who didn’t board, you would think that luggage would be what saves the day. It’s not.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt deals with a code 7500

7500 refers to the code for a hijacking. Terrorists storm the cockpit when flight attendants bring the pilot food. It is an intense fight in close quarters, and compromises the plane too. Tobias manages to shut Daniel (Paul Wollin) and Vedat (Omid Memar) out of the cockpit, but Kinan (Murathan Muslu) remains knocked out inside with him. He’ll wake up, even though he’s restrained.  

7500: Carlo Kitzlingr
Carlo Kitzlinger | Amazon Studios

Tobias has to watch the terrorists threaten the passengers and crew in the cabin on his monitor. Staying in the cockpit is a unique take for an airplane hostage movie. Films like Executive Decision, Passenger 57, Con Air, Turbulence, Non-Stop and Snakes on a Plane mostly focus on the cabin, or at least intercut back and forth. 

Tobias tries everything he can from inside the cockpit, but many of his actions are just for the sake of trying something to fill the running time. His motivations are a big sketchy. Tobias makes a request of the passengers that might draw unfavorable comparisons to United 93, both the real life tragedy and the film about it. The generic Muslim terrorists feel dated at best and more likely a setback for representation. There are even deeper problems when you give the film a moment’s thought.

There’s no reason for this story to continue

So Tobias refuses to open the cockpit door, lets terrorists threaten passengers, and for what? What is at stake? The plane was going from Berlin to Paris. It doesn’t have enough fuel to take the hijackers very far. Air traffic control even redirects Tobias to Hamburg, so they could land somewhere and deal with the terrorists on the ground but let the passengers and crew live. 

7500: Omid Memar
Omid Memar | Amazon Studios

Even if he’s afraid they could fly the plane into innocent populations, again there’s very little fuel. There’s a very limited selection of targets, whom they could warn. So yeah, as a matter of procedure you don’t want to let hijackers into the cockpit, but when it’s up to Tobias, he’s endangering his passengers for nothing. 

‘7500’ ignores all the characters Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn’t play

We don’t get to know many of the people in the cabin, but those we do have frustrating character arcs. Gokce is only there to motivate Tobias. The fact that she’s there for that purpose is offensive. It would be perfectly fine if he was a single pilot or had family not on the plane.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: 7500
Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Amazon Studios

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If the only reason to include his girlfriend is a function of his arc, it’s better to not even have her in the movie although the best would be to include her and give her her own story. Their son is her son too. She should have an equal stake in Tobias’s concerns. 

As the hostage drama endures for 90 minutes, things keep happening in the cockpit long after 7500 has lost the viewer’s interest. Gordon-Levitt is, of course, watchable throughout it all. He didn’t write it, but one wishes he could give this performance in a film that elevate the confined thriller beyond “generic terrorists hijack a plane.”