[Screen It]


(2020) (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar) (R)

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Dramatic Thriller: A pilot must contend with his passenger jet being hijacked by terrorists.

Tobias Ellis (JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT) is a 31-year-old pilot with ten years of experience who, with Captain Michael Lutzmann (CARLO KITZLINGER), is preparing to fly eighty-five passengers on a flight from Berlin. Also on board is Tobias' girlfriend, G÷kce (AYLIN TEZEL), with whom he has a two-year-old son who's staying with her mom. Little do any of them know that four terrorists -- Kalkan (PASSAR HARIKY), Daniel (PAUL WOLLIN), Kinan (MURATHAN MUSLU), and 19-year-old Vedat (OMID MEMAR) -- are on that flight, ready to storm the cockpit when the opportunity arises.

When it does, they spring into action, cutting Tobias' arm and wounding Michael even worse, although Tobias manages to hold off the rest, get the cockpit door closed, and beat Kinan into submission. From that point on, and hoping to make an emergency landing, Tobias does his best -- while locked behind the cockpit door -- to keep the other hijackers out as they threaten to kill passengers and crew members if not allowed in.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

Notwithstanding the tragic and horrific events of 9/11, air travel has -- for the most part -- been the safest it's ever been in the U.S. Back when I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, it wasn't unusual for a breaking news alert -- in an era when that actually meant something big had happened -- to interrupt TV programming to alert of a plane crash or a hijacking that was currently playing out.

Thankfully and like most Americans at that time, we didn't travel by air back then and thus had zero chance of being directly impacted by either event, outside of someone we might have known being unlucky enough to do so (thankfully none did in either case). But I can imagine that for those routinely flying back in those days, the thought of crashing or being hijacked was probably somewhere, even if in the back-corner, dark recesses, in most passengers' minds.

Nowadays, such fears have probably been lessened thanks to better safety and security protocols that have us nearing two decades of no hijackings in the states. Possibly because of that, Hollywood hasn't dabbled much in such storylines of late, with the last being the superlative "United 93" back in 2006.

Perhaps sensing that void and realizing the dramatic thriller potential of such an event, we now have "7500" premiering on Amazon Prime. Named after the transponder code to alert those back on the ground of such a hijacking, this is a fairly effective and taut thriller that takes place entirely in the cockpit of an airline passenger plane that's set to take off from Berlin.

In a sort of "you are there" approach, first-time feature filmmaker Patrick Vollrath -- who works from his own screenplay -- has us follow along with the pre-flight activities and protocols followed by the veteran pilot (Carlo Kitzlinger) and his younger but still experienced flight officer, Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), as they prepare to take off on what looks like it will be just another routine flight for them.

The only slight twist is that we see that Tobias is romantically involved with one of the flight attendants, G÷kce (Aylin Tezel), a story device we obviously know is going to come into play once a quartet of hijackers -- played by Passar Hariky, Paul Wollin, Murathan Muslu, and Omid Memar -- try to bull rush the cockpit during the meal delivery service to the pilots.

Tobias manages to keep all but one out of the cockpit before securing the door, but not before the captain is mortally wounded and the surviving pilot ends up losing the use of his left arm due to being cut there during the melee. With the one hijacker up there now knocked out and tied up, Tobias alerts ground control and sets course for an emergency landing.

Of course, that doesn't sit well with the remaining three who first try to break their way through the cockpit door and then play on Tobias' sympathies by threatening to kill passengers and crew if they're not allowed in (something the pilot can see via the static, rear-facing camera located just outside the door).

And that's it for the story as Tobias tries to keep himself and as many others alive through the ordeal that plays out over 90-some minutes up on the screen. Despite or perhaps due to the simplicity of it all, the filmmaker manages to keep our attention glued to the events as they unfold. I'll admit to finding myself all tensed-up at various points, an obvious indicator of the effectiveness of what appears on the screen.

Likely not everyone's cup of tea and somewhat benefitting from the uncertainty of how things will ultimately play out -- as compared to the true-life "United 93" -- I found the flick effectively stripped down of superfluous storylines to the bare-bones necessities, well-acted, and genuinely riveting. And for that, "7500" scores a 7 out of 10 rating.

Reviewed June 15, 2020 / Posted June 19, 2020

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