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“7500” Film Review

I look back at the Joseph Gordon-Levitt movies I like — “The Walk,” “Looper,” “Don Jon” — and in them, Gordon-Levitt either joyously leaps into a bombastic caricature, as he does with Jon’s Jersey Shore “gym, tan, laundry” send-up, or immerses himself in the gravity of a far-out world, as in “Looper.” Even in a not-so-great movie like “Snowden,” I buy Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal as a conservative geek-turned-whistleblower; he still manages to charm Shailene Woodley’s far-left activist in a flirty debate.

So when thinking back on his new thriller, “7500,” about Gordon-Levitt’s pilot staving off terrorists from his cockpit, the element that nags at me the most is him. How does a good actor, in a single-location thriller that relies on him, phone in such a dispassionate performance? Perhaps he already knew this thriller was dead in the water.

Aside from Gordon-Levitt, whose plea to a terrorist holding a hostage at knifepoint of “Let them go!” carries the same weight of Jeb Bush telling an audience to “please clap,” what stalls the movie is its dedication to its single-location premise and only the premise. I’m already arching my eyebrow as Gordon-Levitt’s Tobias Ellis converses with his flight attendant fiancee, Gökce (Aylin Vedel), before take-off. It just so happens fate put them on this soon-to-be doomed flight together. I wonder, then, who the terrorists will randomly pluck to be a hostage?

An aside: I love Vedel’s performance. In a handful of moments, she’s plucky, sweet, but also tough. She carries Gordon-Levitt through their flirty scenes and holds her own against the terrorists. It makes me wonder why she couldn’t be the pilot. I’d rather watch her get stuff done.

As the movie plays on, it’s easy to pluck out where choices were made to keep this flowchart going. If Gordon-Levitt decides to act swiftly here, the movie stops. If the terrorists bring in a competent crew, they win. There’s one moment where I’m absolutely sure the movie offers Gordon-Levitt a winning out, one where it makes all the sense in the world the terrorists would lose. But that would kill the tension of the thriller, especially if the action were to occur outside of the cockpit. The solution seems like a preemptive move to address an audience’s complaint, but never actually tells us why said solution won’t work. It’s hoping that with another knife fight, we’ll forget.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Studios

One of the movie’s shining points is Omid Memar, who plays Vedat, one of the hijackers. He delivers an impassioned performance as a teen having second thoughts about the plan. The character more or less works because of his emotional outbursts; his fear and frustration excuse any logical inconsistencies. He sheds so many tears for a movie that wouldn’t shed nearly as many for him.

This is another “Middle Eastern terrorists hijack a plane to stick it to the West” movie, handled sloppily with a matter-of-fact delivery that makes me think the script left in a beat reading “insert radical manifesto here.” These are shallow characters, and in a movie with little action and weak acting, need more to keep the film afloat. At one point, Gordon-Levitt points out his fiancee is not only Turkish, but also Muslim, like one of the hijackers. If she were the pilot, wouldn’t that give us an opportunity to explore fanaticism’s perversion of religion, or what experiences have led two people from the same ethnic background to opposite ends of a battleground? These aren’t questions “7500” would even think to pursue; there is the premise and only the premise.

Because of this, when the movie runs out of steam 20 minutes before the end, what remains is a sequence built from the one character trait I know from Tobias: that he’s a highly meticulous man who sticks to procedure. He goes by the book, and because the movie does so, too, I know what’s going to happen. So why continue watching? A better question would be, why even start?

“7500” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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Featured image credit: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Studios

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