Granger on Film: Taut thriller '7500' is intensely suspenseful

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “7500.”

Amazon Studios / Amazon Studios

Having been in quarantine for so many weeks, it’s easy to empathize with the cast and crew of the taut thriller “7500,” set almost entirely in the cramped cockpit of an Airbus A319.

As viewed through ominous security footage, the story begins in Berlin Airport as travelers are checking in for an evening flight to Paris. There’s a slight delay as two passengers who checked luggage are late to board.

Experienced German Captain Michael Lutzmann (former Lufthansa pilot-turned-actor Carlo Kitzlinger) and his bespectacled American co-pilot Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) go through the routine pre-flight checks, while a flight attendant, Gokee (Aylin Tezel), who turns out to be Tobias’ fiancée/mother of their young son, takes their dinner orders.

Shortly after take-off, as the plane reaches cruising altitude and the Fasten Seatbelt sign goes off, there’s thumping on the cockpit door. Islamist extremists are trying to take over control of the plane.

Armed with broken glass, wrapped in duct tape as improvised knives, their leader Kenan (Muruthan Muslu) pushes his way in, incapacitating Michael and severely wounding Tobias’ left arm. Once Kenan is subdued, Tobias radios ahead, arranging for an emergency landing in Hanover while watching a tiny black-and-white, closed-circuit monitor that shows what’s happening just beyond the cockpit door.

As the Muslim terrorists begin to threaten hostages, Kenan’s teenage accomplice, Vedat (Omid Memar), manages to get inside the cramped cockpit, where mild-mannered Tobias, sensing Vedat’s queasy vulnerability, tries to engage him in conversation.

Co-written with Senad Halilbasic and directed by Germany’s Patrick Vollrath, it’s frightening, filled with well-paced, stomach-churning tension. Cinematographer Sebastian Thaler and production designer Thorsten Sabel create gruesome believability; the grim realism is further enhanced by the absence of a musical score.

FYI: The title refers to the Air Traffic Control distress code for a plane being hijacked.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “7500” is an intensely suspenseful 7. You can bet that it won’t appear as a choice on your next flight’s entertainment roster.

Susan Granger has been an on-air television and radio commentator and entertainment critic for more than 25 years. Raised in Hollywood, Granger appeared as a child actress in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Lassie. She currently resides in Westport.