Single location films are few and far between for a number of reasons. They are technically challenging due to the limited variations in shot composition. Being focussed on a single location tends to have an impact on the audience who after a while can find it ia little distracting due to the sameness of the film. Then there is the story. It has to be compelling from the first frame through to the last as there is very little else on the screen. Conquer these and you might have a chance at bringing an interesting film to the screen. The latest to attempt it is the new Joseph Gordon- Levitt drama 7500.
In aviation terms, the code 7500 is a serious one. It is used when a plane is subject to a hijacking attempt. There are no other scenarios that strike fear into a Pilot. On a flight from Berlin to Paris, all seems normal as the Captain and Co-pilot run through their pre-flight checks, and after the last of the passengers embarks, perform a seemingly normal take off. It is only when they reach cruising altitude that things take a turn for the worse. Hijackers armed with sharpened glass storm the cockpit and try to take control of the plane. The pilot is seriously injured, a hijacker is incapacitated, and the Co-pilot (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is able to take control of the cockpit. He hastily informs ground control of the situation and arranges an emergency landing. Just as he seems to be in control, the cockpit door starts getting thumped and on the CCTV feed, he can see that the hijackers still in the body of the plane are threatening to kill a passenger if the plane is not surrendered to them.
The film starts off in silence. Over the titles, there are images from the CCTV in Belin airport. They linger on certain individuals as they go through security and the departure lounges. The characters we see, that are later identified as the hijackers, do not act suspiciously but with the absence of music or dialogue, there is a sense of foreboding. It is clever and very effective. The fact that it used CCTV footage is relevant as that will be a visual choice used again later in the film.
The entirety of the film after the credits is set in the confined space that is the cockpit of the passenger plane. It is not a large space which can seat only two people comfortably. The limited space is emphasised early on during the pre-flight checks when people pop in and out of the cabin. The distance between the two occupants and their visitors is very small indeed. This sets up the dimensions nicely for the audience.
As with the best screen stories, 7500 tries to show you the story rather than over-utilizing dialogue to get the point across. As Tobias enters the frame for the first time we get an indication of what sort of a man he is. He smiles briefly at one of the cabin crew and from that fleeting moment we can glean so much about him. There is something between them that doesn’t need to be fully expanded on for us to understand it. The look says it all. Given that there will be peril ahead the stakes have been subtly raised with this gesture.
There is a real tension in the mundane here. As the team goes through their process there is a sense of dread and mounting tension through nothing than recalling the opening credit sequence. Something is not right and it is just a question of when rather than if. Knowing that doesn’t reduce the tension though. Quite the opposite. When the hijackers strike it is with brutality and swiftness that is surprising. It is messy and not professional at all. This is emphasised by the way the action is shot and edited. Quick cuts add to the confusion of the moment and set up the drama this to come.
The film has three distinct phases. The build-up, the hijack attempt and it’s aftermath followed by the endgame. The story is tight and never uses anything that might distract from the story. There is no fat here in this ninety-minute run time. The dialogue is kept to a minimum, keeping the tension high. We don’t get a whole lot of back story for either Tobias or his adversaries unless it is absolutely necessary. The fact that it managed to maintain its momentum is impressive, to say the least.
It was easy to see why Joseph Gordon-Levitt was drawn to the role of Tobias. He is not a heroic figure. He is an average man who pilots aircraft and has all the usual concerns. The character is given depth and feeling by the performance. In an environment where procedures are essential for safety, it is a good base for a man who is dragged so far out of his depth and has to rely on instinct and his extensive training to try to survive. When he is confronted by the first attacker into the cockpit, he doesn’t turn into an action hero. He looks genuinely frightened and it takes a moment for him to react to the situation. You believe in the character from that alone. He is not cool and collected and this makes the drama all the more compelling.
7500 is well worth an hour and a half of your time. It is a tight drama with an impressive central performance. The film is avaiable on Amazon Prime from the 19th of June.