1/2 | 1/2
Germany | Austria 2019
Opening December 26, 2019
Directed by: Patrick Vollrath
Writing credits: Senad Halilbasic, Patrick Vollrath
Principal actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Carlo Kitzlinger, Aylin Tezel, Omid Memar
Few mediums are as stark and ominous as security-camera footage. In this case, it opens the movie and sets the tone. You see vaguely Middle Eastern-looking men in an airport, going through pat-downs, coming in and out of the restroom, looking terrifyingly normal, and you just know something awful is afoot.
What follows takes place entirely in an Airbus A319 cockpit. It’s cramped and stuffy and too small for the high drama that follows, which is, of course, the point. There is no music, nothing to detract from the feeling that you’re crushed in there with them, experiencing it all in real time. What happens in the passenger area is seen only on a small black-and-white screen in the cockpit – more security camera footage, the action gone from banal to horrifying.
While I find it regrettable that the hijackers (because that is, of course, what they are) are Middle Eastern, on a mission to avenge Muslims everywhere, I find it curious that our protagonist (Gordon-Levitt) is American. He is a pilot with a German airline, living in Berlin with a Turkish-German girlfriend (Tezel) and young son. His girlfriend is, in fact, on the plane with him, as a flight attendant with the same airline. While her ethnic heritage is conspicuously noted, as is his inability to speak German, neither fact ends up figuring in the story. Which makes these facts feel contrived, ploys to move the language to English and secure wider release for this, an otherwise, German film. And to demonstrate that, no, there’s no racial profiling here – the hijackers ethnicity notwithstanding.
That said, the movie is otherwise very effectively nerve-wracking. The most upsetting violence happens outside the cockpit, although it gets pretty gruesome inside, too. Mainly, it’s relentless, just heart-thumpingly tense, punctuated with terrible cruelty. While this could easily get exhausting to watch, the director changes up the pace just enough to sustain interest. That, plus excellent performances all around, make for a compelling cinematic experience, though not one for the easily over-wrought. 92 minutes ()
Patrick Vollrath’s debut feature film screenplay, from a story co-scripted with Senad Halilbasic, puts audiences in the cockpit as a chilling hijack occurs during what should be a routine Berlin, Germany to Paris, France flight. The eponymous title, in aviation lingo, is an emergency-specific squawk code. Locked in the cockpit, most startling is the effect of being locked out of sights and sounds during the stimulating even if anxiety ridden, charged flight.
7500 begins before boarding, but then cuts to real-time on the Airbus A319. The Captain (Carlo Kitzlinger) and Co-pilot Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) go through preflight safety checks in the cockpit, while the cabin crew, counting flight attendant Gökce (Aylin Tezel), busily set up. Passengers boarded include Vedat (Omid Memar), Kenan (Murathan Muslu), Kalkan (Passar Hariky), and a student (Max Schimmelpfennig). Following takeoff, a loud commotion in the cabin precedes men assaulting the cockpit. As the battlefield rages outside the door, Ellis launches code 7500. With the clock ticking, he and the radicals play a deadly game of chess, whereby every move will impact everyone onboard.
Vollrath’s tight rein, a superb cast and production team cleverly converges for a quite authentic, and spectacular result. Gordon-Levitt’s viscerally sensitive portrayal of his character’s ingenious complexities, contrasts Memar’s 18-year-old character’s provocative naiveté; Kitzlinger could be on loan from Lufthansa German airlines. Cinematographer Sebastian Thaler works magic in the tight space, as is Hansjörg Weißbrich’s editing dexterous and brilliant. Almost imperceptible movements, and minuscule actions speak volumes. The silences make space for tantalizing, yet terrifying questions: what if it was me? What would I do? 92 minutes