7500 (3 stars)

7500

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is impressively understated in this pacey hijacking drama from Patrick Vollrath

International air travel is a scary enough prospect at present without adding the threat of a hijack. The times may be less than ideal for the release of writer-director Patrick Vollrath's debut feature 7500 (named after the aircraft squawk code for a hijacking). It is still a briskly paced, visceral evocation of mid-air mayhem.

Vollrath deliberately eschews the razzle dazzle heroics of a Mission: Impossible for something more steeped in the reality of a life and death situation. We only see what transpires in the cockpit, or what can be heard or observed from a black and white monitor. The one-set location really adds to the sense of powerless confinement.

The film begins with the depiction of just another work shift, as captain Michael Lutzmann (Carlo Kitzlinger) and American first officer Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) prepare for a short night flight from Berlin to Paris. There are 85 passengers on board and a crew that includes Tobias's partner, stewardess Gökce (Aylin Tezel), the mother of his two-year-old son.

When two men rush the cockpit brandishing knives it is swift and chaotic. The subsequent stand-off leaves an injured Tobias struggling to maintain control of the plane and negotiate his way through an impossible situation. The ultimatums come thick and fast. People die. Anxiety levels rise and the film is never less than compelling, even if the narrow focus leaves little room for the bigger picture. Attempts to involve us more in the plight of terrorist leader Kenan (Murathan Muslu) and his young accomplice Vedat (Omid Memar) feel half-hearted. Sentimentality starts to eat away at the film's earnest intentions.

Despite its flaws, 7500 has some edge-of-the-seat moments and a nicely understated performance from Gordon-Levitt as an ordinary man hit by the full force of extraordinary circumstances.

Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Fri 19 Jun.

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