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The Hijacking Thriller That's Crushing It On Amazon Prime

Looking for a tense, claustrophobic thriller starring one of the best actors in the business? Amazon Prime Video has got you covered.

7500, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an airline pilot who finds himself dealing with terrorists intent on hijacking his plane, has touched down on the streaming service. The flick is winning over viewers with its gritty, Hitchcockian vibe, not to mention another in a long line of excellent performances by Levitt.

The movie is an international co-production between American production house FilmNation Entertainment and German studios MMC and Augenschein Filmproduktion, with filming taking place in Cologne, Germany, and Vienna, Austria. German director Patrick Vollrath (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his short film Everything Will Be Okay) helmed the picture, with Levitt leading a multinational cast that includes Austrian actor Omid Memar, German actress Aylin Tezel, and French actress Aurélie Thépaut.

In case you're wondering, 7500 is the distress code that pilots transmit to air traffic control to let them know that a hijacking is taking place. Contrary to what you might expect, Levitt's character doesn't transform from mild-mannered pilot to action movie hero when the hijacking goes down — he deals with the emergency much as a real-life pilot would, lending to the movie's air of realism.

Minor spoilers for 7500 follow.

What is 7500 about?

7500 opens with American pilot Tobias Ellis in the cockpit, getting ready for a routine flight from Berlin to Paris. He chats with one of the flight attendants, his girlfriend Gökce (Tezel), about their young son, and makes small talk with his captain before departure; nothing out of the ordinary here. As soon as the flight is in the air, though, the situation takes a turn for the terrifying. 

A trio of hijackers led by a man named Kenan (Muruthan Muslu) attempt to force their way into the cockpit, and in the scuffle, the captain is stabbed to death and Ellis sustains a serious wound to one arm. He manages to knock one terrorist out and lock himself in the cockpit, tying the man up and transmitting the distress signal to air traffic control — but of course, the hijackers aren't done. They begin taking hostages, and demonstrate that they mean business by killing one when Ellis refuses to grant them entry to the cockpit.

Of course, it's only a matter of time before the bad guys take Gökce as one of their hostages, sticking Ellis — who, remember, is still wounded and bleeding — with an impossible decision. But one of the hijackers appears to be having second thoughts, and Ellis begins to think that if he can't fight or talk his way out of his situation, he just may be able to turn one of his adversaries to his side.

What are the critics saying about 7500?

7500 has received mixed-to-positive reviews, with even those critics who panned the film conceding that Levitt's performance makes it compellingly watchable. But those who recommended the film were in the majority, praising it for its emotional weight, realism, and the stylish direction of Vollrath.

"[7500 is] an impressive technical feat that will rip your lungs out for long stretches," wrote Kevin Crust of The Los Angeles Times. "The largely improvised tale of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances places you squarely in the gut-wrenching position of its protagonist... The cast, especially Gordon-Levitt and Memar as Vedat, the youngest of the hijackers, excel at combining drama and physicality. Rather than the over-choreographed fight scenes of most Hollywood movies, the violence here is clumsy, painful and visceral." Crust also noted an interesting facet of the film's production: its screenplay consists largely of just the technical jargon between members of the flight crew, with most of the additional dialogue improvised by the cast, helping to further heighten the flick's realism.

Roger Moore of Movie Nation appreciated that quality, and in particular admired Gordon-Levitt's approach to his character. "There are no glib taunts, threats or macho one-liners," Moore wrote. "Gordon-Levitt makes Tobias believably human. He's in shock, in pain, terrified for his partner... [he] gives us a master class in screen acting in close-ups, and does that in a thriller good enough to give us more pause before booking that next trip."

Negative reviews have tended to focus on what's perceived to be predictable plot twists and the use of Muslim terrorists as villains (which is admittedly a tired trope at best), but most critics felt that 7500 delivered the goods. Wrote Variety's Guy Lodge, "Gordon-Levitt and Memar... play it for all the emotional agony it's worth; their performances, together with the economical expertise of the film's construction, keep 7500 cruising some way above B-movie level."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't the first choice for 7500

Surprising as it may seem given how captivating his performance in 7500 is, Gordon-Levitt wasn't actually the first and only actor to be lined up to play the lead role. Paul Dano — the actor and filmmaker known for his roles in Little Miss Sunshine and Love & Mercy, who will appear as the Riddler in 2021's The Batman — was originally slated to top-line 7500, but he wound up exiting the role due to scheduling conflicts after the intended mid-2017 filming start date was pushed back. Gordon-Levitt then nabbed the leading part, and the rest is history. 

In the end, the way things panned out was pretty perfect. Gordon-Levitt was confident that 7500 was the right movie to mark his acting comeback (his last super-significant role was as the titular character in the 2016 biographical thriller Snowden), and most critics feel the same. We tend to agree, and we think you will, too. You can check out 7500 right now on Amazon Prime Video.