We haven’t had a skyjacking movie in quite a while.
There were plenty of them in the 1990s (e.g. “Executive Decision,” “Passenger 57,” “Con Air,” and “Air Force One”), but after the 9/11 attacks — with the exception of “United 93,” about the passengers who revolted against the terrorists on that fateful day — Hollywood lost its appetite for the genre for more than a decade. It wasn’t until 2014 that we got “Non-Stop” with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.
Now comes “7500,” named after the code pilots use to alert ground personnel that hijackers are trying to take over their plane. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tobias, the First Officer on a flight from Berlin to Paris. Shortly after takeoff, as a flight attendant carries coffee to Tobias and the pilot, Michael, several men rush the door. One of them squeezes into the cockpit and stabs Michael while Tobias desperately pushes the others out and manages to subdue the hijacker and regain control of the plane while the other terrorists try to gain entry. We heard a lot about fortifying cockpit doors after 9/11, and the one in “7500” is certainly sturdy. It withstands continued kicking and banging, but it also leaves Tobias essentially alone to deal with the crisis.
First-time director Patrick Vollrath, working from a script he wrote with Senad Halilbasic, ramps up the tension by keeping the camera in the cockpit with Tobias. The only view we get of what’s happening in the cabin is through a monitor just above the door that shows what the surveillance camera on the other side sees. But there are no shots of passengers’ reactions, nor authorities on the ground, nor news media getting word of the hijacked plane.
As the situation plays out in real time, the only focus — often in long takes — is on Tobias. That claustrophobic perspective is what makes “7500” work and sets it apart from every other hijacking movie I’ve mentioned.
I won’t tell you any further plot points, but will say that I was fully invested in the story thanks to that directorial choice, as well as Gordon-Levitt’s performance. He is on screen the entire time (after some introductory footage in the Berlin airport) and is very good at letting us share the horror of the circumstance he’s found himself in.
“7500” begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video today. I give it an 8 out of 10.