What score do you give a movie that offers empty engagement? How do you rate a film that entertains but says nothing? These questions are far from rhetorical — I’d genuinely like an answer.

Knowing how to do so would significantly assist me in my review of 7500, an international co-production which features Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his first starring role in nearly half a decade. The film absolutely checks some hefty cinematic boxes: it’s compelling in moments, terrifying in others, and captivating throughout.

The only is problem is that, once the credits started to roll, I realized there was no point to any of it. Director Patrick Vollrath had crafted a 90-minute thrill ride that always seemed on the verge of making a statement but never found the guts to do so, and in a film with subject matter this serious, that’s a dangerous game to play.

7500 follows Tobias Ellis (played by Gordon-Levitt), an American pilot flying a routine commercial route in Europe. Early on in the flight, the plane is overtaken by Islamist militants, and the remainder of the runtime is dedicated to tracking Tobias’s steady-handed attempt to diffuse the situation. For artificially added tension, one of the terrorists made it into the cockpit before Ellis could lock the door (he’s unconscious though, thankfully) and, oh, one of the flight attendants is the mother of Tobias’s child.

Whatever you might expect a film to do with this setup, 7500 does not. There is no meaningful examination of the terrorists’ ideologies, no thoughtful consideration of duty, and little in the way of any reflection at all. Gordon-Levitt turns in a great performance, capturing the “heroic everyman” aura so in-demand in today’s film industry, but there’s little to praise beyond that in terms of craft — perhaps the film’s biggest sell is that it takes place entirely in the plane’s cockpit, but that ends up feeling more like a claustrophobic gimmick than an actual artistic exercise.

It would be easier to find the merits in this film if it weren’t so blatantly derivative: nearly every element of 7500 from plot to style owes a major debt to 2013’s Captain Phillips. Even setting asides the fact that 7500 basically just lifts the story of Captain Phillips and puts it in the air, Vollrath also appears to be drawing heavily from the neutral, documentary-esque style of shooting that defines so much of Paul Greengrass‘s work in Captain Phillips and beyond.

All in all, if you’re looking for an hour and a half of high tension and white-knuckle thrills, this film will not disappoint you — I just hope you’re not looking for a side of substance with your style.

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