Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of 7500

7500, rated R

7500, now showing on Amazon Prime, is an intense thriller, told almost entirely from the cockpit of an Airbus A319 on a flight from Berlin to Paris. The film was directed by Oscar nominee Patrick Vollrath (Alles wird gut) in his feature film debut, who co-wrote the film with Senad Halilbasic. The low budget film, with little or no musical score, gets its title from the emergency code (7500) for a plane hijacking. Though there are few characters in the film, the cockpit door, locked during the flight, and the camera monitor that the pilots use to see outside the door, play key roles in the film.
As the film begins, we see the pilot Michael Lutzmann, played by Carlo Kitzlinger and the co-pilot Tobias Ellis, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50, (500) Days of Summer) in the cockpit going through their routine preparations for the flight. The plane has 85 passengers, in addition to the crew. One of the flight attendants is Gokce, played by Aylin Tezel. She is Ellis’ girlfriend, and the mother of his child. The film is told from the viewpoint of Ellis.
The pilots are told by air traffic control to expect some turbulence from weather as they takeoff. Turbulence foreshadows what is to soon come.

The pilots hear shouting in the passenger cabin, and from the camera monitor in the cockpit they see a group of Islamic terrorists try to storm the cockpit. The constant pounding on the cockpit door will go on for much of the film. Soon, a few of the terrorists are able to get into the cabin and kill the pilot. Ellis, though injured, is able to knock out one hijacker, and regain control of the cockpit and plane. He then has to make difficult decisions to protect the passengers and the plane as the hijackers take hostages and threaten to kill them if he doesn’t let them in the cockpit.

The film is rated R for language, violence and intensity. Themes include courage, leadership, terror and painful decision-making.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent as the co-pilot Tobias Ellis. Omid Memar turns in a strong performance as the 18-year-old Vedat, one of the hijackers.
7500 is an edge of your seat thriller. It’s not a great movie, but at just 92 minutes, it is a fast-moving intense film that features a strong performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It is exclusively available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video.

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snowdenSnowden, rated R

This film is directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone and is his twentieth feature film. It depicts events that took place between 2004 and 2013 in the life of whistleblower Edward Snowden, played by one of our better young actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The film is written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald and is based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus  by Anatoly Kucherena.

Earlier this summer in the same theater before a packed house that came to see Captain America: Civil War, jovial cries of “Team Captain” and “Team Iron Man” broke out. Before this film, I asked the only other person in the theater at the time what he thought – was Snowden a patriot or a traitor? He identified himself as a Libertarian and immediately and enthusiastically responded that Snowden was definitely a patriot. And that’s exactly the way Stone portrays Snowden in this film. If that is not your view of Snowden you might want to pass on this film.

It mixes dramatization with some historical footage and opens in a Hong Kong hotel with Snowden meeting Laura Poitras, (played by Oscar winner Melissa Leo), director of what would become the Oscar winning documentary Citizenfour, and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, (played by Zachary Quinto – Spock in the latest Star Trek films). Snowden proceeds to share classified information about how the United States government is conducting illegal surveillance activities on their own citizens based on his knowledge of this from his time working in top-secret jobs in the United States government. This information is then published by the Guardian.

Among other things we find out that the government has the capability to turn on your laptop computer camera without you knowing it. Where I work, a number of people have for some time now placed a piece of tape over the camera because of just this fear.

In addition to Leo and Quinto, the film also features a number of other well-known actors such as Oscar winner Nicholas Cage, in his best performance role I’ve seen him in for some time, and the always good Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson. The real Edward Snowden, still living in Moscow, also appears near the end of the film.

Though the film is clear about its intentions of seeing Snowden as a patriot, it should lead to some good conversations after seeing the film. For example, we ran into some friends afterwards who felt that the truth was probably somewhere in the middle between patriot and traitor.

Gordon-Levitt, who was solid but not spectacular in his role as Snowden, makes us feel that something is wrong with what he is seeing, especially as the real President Obama is shown campaigning against exactly what Snowden now knows is going on under his leadership. But the question about Snowden comes down to the decision he made to share the confidential National Security Agency documents publicly. Should he have first attempted to go through legitimate channels to enact change?  The film portrays his good intentions in being concerned about what he sees going on, and ultimately in exposing it, but it doesn’t address the harm (real or potential) he did to national security or government personnel working undercover. I see that as a weakness in the film.

The film was also slow, and even boring at times, too long at 134 minutes. Snowden’s relationship with live-in girlfriend Lindsay Mills, played by Shailene Woodley (from the Divergent films), which comprised big chunks of the film, added nothing to the overall Snowden story that people care about, and is another weakness of the film. The film does show one sex scene between the two. Mills, was a photographer and she was also the subject of many photographs shown in the film, including one of her nude. The film also included some adult language, a scene of Woodley teaching a pole-dancing class and a scene (no nudity) in a strip club. So Christian men, be prepared to divert your eyes into your popcorn box for a few scenes. The film is appropriately rated “R”.

Note:  let me know if Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s fake voice drove you crazy too.

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Movie Review ~ The Walk

the WalkThe Walk, rated PG

As a young boy Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) went to the circus and was captivated by the high-wire act. He then started performing (juggling, walking a tightrope in his yard and on the sidewalks of the city), much to the dismay of his dismissive father.

One day he sneaks into the circus tent when it is empty and climbs up to the high-wire, only to be caught by Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) the leader of the high-wire act. Papa Rudy will become a major influence in his life. In the streets of Paris he notices Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) playing her guitar on the sidewalk for donations. Phillippe begins performing his act and ends up taking Annie’s audience completely away, which she is angry about. This begins a long relationship between the two.  Philippe sees a magazine article about the two World Trade Center towers being constructed in New York City, which would be higher than his hometown Eiffel Tower. He gets the crazy idea to string a wire between the two towers and walk it. Philippe and Annie then go to NYC in 1974 and begin putting together their team accomplices and planning the walk.

This film is based on Phillippe’s book To Reach the Clouds, and is directed by Oscar winning (for Forrest Gump) director Robert Zemeckis. The film slowly builds until we see the unbelievable walk by Phillippe, which is captured with some incredible cinematography and CGI (computer generated imagery), which makes one truly grasp the height of the Twin Towers, especially when seen in 3D. In fact, during the film’s New York City premiere the realism of Petit’s walk 1,362 feet in the air caused some viewers to actually throw up from vertigo.  Robert Zemeckis responded that, “[The goal] was to evoke the feeling of vertigo. We worked really hard to put the audience up on those towers and on the wire.”

The film is rated PG, somewhat surprisingly since we see Phillippe’s nude back end (though not in a sexual context). There is no adult language, but we do see Phillippe and Annie living together. Gordon-Levitt is outstanding as the 24 year-old Phillipe and Kingsley delivers his usual strong performance. The supporting cast that assists Petit are solid as well. The story is narrated by Phillipe standing at the top of the Statue of Liberty with the Twin Towers in the background. It’s an incredible story, and it’s told well in this film. Note: my wife thought the majority of the movie moved too slowly, so she gave it a two star rating.  She also thought the 3D was not worth the extra cost, but it would have been great on IMAX 3D.