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‘7500’ is a thriller that feels perfect at home

AT A GLANCE

7500

Directed by: Patrick Vollrath

Starring: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Carlo Kitzlinger, Aylin Tezel

Rated: R

Available on: Amazon Prime Video beginning June 18

Critical rating: 4 stars out of 4

Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the thriller “7500,” available June 18 on Amazon Prime Video.

By Forrest Hartman

German writer-director Patrick Vollrath has created one of the most claustrophobic, intense, well-acted movies of 2020, and these qualities are advantageous in a streaming media environment. Since the Covid-19 pandemic has largely put big-screen features on hold, we’ve had time to reflect on the difference between watching at home versus in a theater. The shared big-screen experience has joys that will never be recreated in one’s family room, but there are certain pictures that actually play better at home. I believe “7500” is one of them. 

The terrorist thriller is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, included with the popular Amazon Prime delivery service, and the reason it feels so good in a home setting is that Vollrath and co-writer Senad Halibasic have gone out of the way to make it the antithesis of blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Much of the appeal in the latter movies is spectacle. The scope of those pictures is massive, as they transport viewers to different worlds, balancing dialog and exposition against action sequences that are literally packed with mind-blowing special effects. “7500” is smaller in every way, and that’s a good thing. 

The movie starts at a leisurely pace, with Vollrath introducing us to our protagonist, Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), one of two commercial pilots in charge of a flight from Berlin to Paris. Viewers enter the cockpit, where Tobias gets to know the flight’s captain, Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger), and works through routine pre-flight tasks. There’s not much space in the plane, and cinematographer Sebastian Thaler keeps the framing simple. This works well in a home viewing environment. If you watch with the lights dim, you might even feel as though you are sitting beside Tobias and Michael, helping them prepare for the trip. Unlike the spectacle that makes “Avengers” films special, “7500” is intimate, and intimacy works in our houses.  

Vollrath does some of his finest character development before the plane leaves the ground. Before takeoff, we know that Tobias is in a serious relationship with one of the flight attendants. They aren’t married, but they live together and have a child. They also strive to keep their professional and private lives separate. Michael is established as a serious-but-amiable captain, and we learn that – despite Tobias’ youth – he has been flying for a decade. Each of these seemingly mundane details matters, and Vollrath refuses to rush through them with shortcuts. That patience pays dividends later. 

Although “7500” begins at a trot, it hits full gallop about 20 minutes in, when one of several terrorists forces his way into the cockpit. This starts a chain of events leading Tobias to a series of near-impossible choices, all elevating the tension for the remainder of the picture’s 90 minutes. Throughout, Vollrath and Thaler remain focused on Tobias because this is his story. 

Gordon-Levitt is a talent, who has turned in impressive work in projects ranging from the Christopher Nolan thriller “Inception” to the cancer drama “50/50.” Here, he is typically self-assured. Tobias is mild-mannered and kind, but also smart and disciplined. He doesn’t always make the right choices, and it’s enjoyable for viewers to imagine what they would do in his place. But … what is the right choice in an impossible situation? The movie is intriguing because it shows a good man doing his best to find hope in a terrible place. Saying that Gordon-Levitt’s performance is among the best of the year so far, is minimizing his efforts since the cinematic year is so off-kilter. But this is great work.  The supporting cast is also solid, but this is Gordon-Levitt’s film, as every twist centers on Tobias’ decisions.  

Vollrath makes the most of the confined setting … something that could hurt a weaker filmmaker. In some respects, “7500” must have been easy to produce. A single location, small cast and minimal set dressing all speed the shooting process, but these things come with restraints. When all the action is set in an airplane cockpit, there are no astonishing backdrops or special effects to use as a crutch. The weight of the storytelling is relegated to the script and its handful of actors … each forced to make up for the fact that the scenery is unchanged for 90 minutes. Again, this plays into the strengths of at-home viewing. 

As long as one watches distraction-free, it is easy to get sucked into Tobias’ world. It is easy to feel his pain, his anguish, and his uncertainty. And “feeling” is what great directors make us do.          

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‘The Predator’: Snapshot Review

THE PREDATOR

(2 stars out of 4)                     1 hour, 47 minutes

PLOT: A sniper, his autistic son, a scientist and a ragtag group of ex-military friends face off against an angry, king-sized predator. The latter has come to Earth to hunt another of his species.

SCOOP: The film – the 4thor 6th in the franchise depending on if you count the “Alien Vs. Predator” flicks — has a retro vibe but doesn’t feel dated. It also has more humor than past entries, giving it some entertainment value. That said, the picture seriously overstays its welcome. Although only 107 minutes, it feels longer thanks to standard action-movie tropes and a plot that isn’t inventive or special. Director Shane Black (“The Nice Guys,” “Iron Man 3,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) has a nice style, but he doesn’t overcome the fact that this movie is basically a standard-order guilty pleasure.

STARRING: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane

DIRECTOR: Shane Black (“The Nice Guys,” “Iron Man 3,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”)

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‘Point Break’ review

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‘Batman v Superman’ – Snapshot Review

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

151 minutes, Rated PG-13

Critical rating: 3 stars out of 4

Directed by: Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen,” “Man of Steel”)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality

The story: The movie is set after 2013’s “Man of Steel” in a world that has come to love Superman’s (Henry Cavill) heroic deeds but fear his immense power. One of the people most concerned about Superman’s extraordinary abilities is Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), the billionaire businessman who moonlights as Batman. Wayne watched as Superman battled the Kryptonian super villain Zod, laying waste to much of Metropolis in the process. Although Superman didn’t intend on the destruction, Wayne takes it personally because many of his employees were killed when a building was destroyed.  At the same time, Superman is growing increasingly concerned about Batman’s vigilante tactics. This, and some meddling by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), leads to a showdown between the two heroes.

The scoop: The film boasts plenty of silly moments, but it’s also a lot of fun. Director Zack Snyder’s visuals are beautiful, and he allows time for the cast to develop their characters. Cavill and Affleck are good, as is Gal Gadot who makes an appearance as Wonder Woman. Although some plot points strain credibility, viewers willing to go for the ride can have plenty of fun.

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