7500 – it’s not good news when air traffic control hears those numbers. The frantic utterance of digits must instil a particular dread and impotence in the command office, a unique sort of uselessness in response to the worst possible scenario. Our millennial anxiety of plane hijackings – oddly emphasised in the titular code combination – is brought to bear in this sometimes tense and sometimes laughable chamber piece thriller.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt shoulders the action as Tobias Ellis, an outwardly composed and professional pilot who sets off from Berlin to Paris with his captain, a crew and a full set of passengers. The opening is wonderfully wrought, the cockpit a hive of airplane banter (well, quite), here peppered with the ominous grains of foreshadowing. That Tobias’s young son can’t get into the local kindergarten isn’t a “disaster”, after all!
It’s entertaining to pick out red herrings and portents of dooms in these early stages: a flick of a curtain, a short take-off delay, a nod of mutual understanding. Proceedings lose tension when the siege gets underway – bubbling escalation can’t be indefinite, in fairness. The suffocating setting maintains an effective proximity to realism: the actual cockpit with actual dials; a qualified pilot plays the captain; all knob-twiddling procedures are accurately followed.
An acute use of sounds and images propels us forward. Bangs and knocks are close to constant, the cabin door acting as forlorn percussion, a reminder of imminent threats outside. These threats are rendered through grimy surveillance footage that should confuse the perception of events. It’s difficult to parse dangers through an elevated, decolourised and distorted medium. That Tobias stays both lucid and sensitive is probably testament to his training, but this comes at the expense of our dramatic involvement. He knows where the glass is.
As the violence and ethical quandaries develop, we’re asked not to judge the characters. There are no good and bad people, Patrick Vollrath’s film suggests, just complicated humans making complicated decisions. This entails cursory geopolitical allusions and handwringing capitulations of Western supremacy. Tobias’s American-ness is offset by his apparently European sensibilities, by his choice of home and family. These elements are iffy and under-thought.
Much closely resembles Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, in that each terrorist dubiously takes on aspects of a single personality, in that their ages become the defining factor for the viewer’s sympathy or repulsion. Pointed inevitability smothers the closing section, and our view of the climax remains inside the cockpit. We look out with the 18-year-old Vedat (Omid Memar) in a state of suggested equivalence, through an appeal to empathy and moral ambiguity. Makes you think! No, not really.
7500 does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Locarno Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Locarno Film Festival website here.