Charismatic everyman Joseph Gordon-Levitt thrived as a notable name in blockbuster epics (Inception) and indie favorites (500 Days of Summer), but his waning presence in Hollywood has left his career in a curious state. In the German thriller 7500, Gordon-Levitt’s first starring vehicle since 2016, the actor’s versatile abilities carry an effective, yet uneven boilerplate thriller set in the sky.
7500 follows Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a proficient pilot who has happily settled down with his flight attendant fiancée Gokce (Aylin Tezel). His daily routine is forever changed when a group of terrorists board the plane, including a weary young man Vedat (Omid Memar) who begins to have doubts about his actions.
Considering its subject matter, writer/director Patrick Vollrath effort could have easily drifted into trashy, exploitative territory. Thankfully, his debut feature places a keen eye towards realism, eschewing genre standards in an embrace of authentic moments. Utilizing quiet ambiance and a mixture of cinematic styles (jumps between tight-knit shots to coldly captured camera footage), Vollrath holds his audience’s attention throughout, never glorifying the horrifying realities shown on screen.
7500 delivers a commendably empathetic effort in capturing both sides of the fence. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance affectively carries the narrative, capturing the blur of mental states during this spiraling situation while properly dialing his emotive cadence. The pain and guilt Tobias feels during the initial incident is portrayed throughout, with violent outburst morphing into a solemn acceptance of the losses that has occured.
Going toe to toe with Levitt is Omid Memar, delivering a breakout performance as a terrorist faced with his agonizing actions. Vollrath’s script thankfully offers some dimension to Vedat’s journey, displaying him as a byproduct of a systematic effort rather than a callous killer. It all builds to a tense third act standoff between Tobias and Vedat, with the characters connecting over their respective pains while operating in a frantic frenzy to survive.
7500 takes off without a hitch, but there are limitations to its approach. Vollrath’ commendably grounds the narrative in its close-quarters setting, but that choice comes with its fair share of dry spells during the film’s dramatically insipid frames (it’s a shame that aside from Tobias and Vedat, the characters are flat and one-dimensional). The script also fails to escape cliché-laden genre beats, landing at its inevitable conclusion without much inventiveness.
Even with its limitations, 7500 soars as a tense, workmanlike thriller, elevated by its delicate balance between thrills and realistic moments.
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