7500 (Patrick Vollrath). Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video Canada Thursday, June 19. Rating: NNNN
Patrick Vollrath’s 7500 puts a very clever formal twist on the hijacking thriller: with the exception of the opening credits and maybe 15 seconds at the end, the entire film is set within the cockpit of an Airbus A31 flying from Berlin to Paris, where young American co-pilot Tobias Ellis is trapped for the duration of the ordeal.
It’s a real-time thriller formatted as a bottle episode, locked to Tobias’s perspective as he realizes the threat, acts to seal the cockpit and must then try to land the flight safely as the attackers threaten to kill the passengers if he doesn’t open the door. To make things worse, one of the terrorists is locked inside with him; to make things even more horrible, Tobias’s girlfriend Gökce (Aylin Tezel), a flight attendant, is among the hostages.
If you caught German filmmaker Vollrath’s Oscar-nominated short Everything Will Be Okay a few years back, you’ll quickly recognize the merciless efficiency with which he tells his story. 7500 – which takes its title from the code for this specific emergency – moves swiftly through its story, showing us what Tobias has to work with, and more pointedly what he doesn’t have. There’s a security camera on the other side of the door, showing us a tiny sliver of the cabin; we’re allowed to imagine what’s happening in the space we can’t see, just as Tobias must.
As a storytelling challenge, it’s a nifty one, and I was pleased to see Vollrath and cinematographer Sebastian Thaler aren’t interested in using 7500 as a calling card to demonstrate their technical prowess in the hopes of landing a big studio gig; the movie isn’t showy in that way. There’s no melodramatic score to tell us how to feel; the camerawork is effective and intuitive, but never flashy. It’s a straightforward presentation of the action that works to build tension and pull us further into the story.
And they’ve got all the virtuosity they need in Gordon-Levitt, anyway: the actor holds the screen capably, mixing panic, pain and resolve as 7500 puts his untested character through a trial by fire.
It’s been a few years since Gordon-Levitt’s last lead role, in Oliver Stone’s Snowden; since then, he’s amused himself with cameos and the odd voice role. This is an unexpected role for him, but it’s a very good showcase for his particular skill set. Vollrath knows it too, making sure his star appears in almost every frame of the film. He knows what he’s got here.