The Call (2013)

There are 118 million 911 calls a year. This one made it personal.

Halle Berry hasn’t been a particular cinematic drawcard of late with duds such as Catwoman (2004) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) still imprinted in viewers minds; it’s easy to understand why most may have just overlooked The Call when trailers were initially released earlier this year. Don’t let the picture’s rather basic premise fool you as director Brad Anderson, The Machinist (2004), has managed to generate a rather predictable, but considerably entertaining flick filled with white-knuckled tension and suspense.

The Call opens up when the highly skilled 911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) receives a phone call from a teenager Leah Templeton (Evie Louise Thompson) reporting a burglary at her home. Jordan makes an error in judgment and instructs Leah to hide herself in a room within the house; the call ends badly for victim Leah, which eventually affects Jordon’s career.  Fast Forward six months and Jordan, still haunted by her mistake, is training rookies at the Los Angeles 911 operating centre. While training, a rookie operator answers a call from teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) who explains that she has just been abducted and is calling from the boot of a car using an untraceable disposable cell phone. The operator panics and Jordan quickly assumes the call; Jordan initially tries to calm Casey down but later attempts to attain information from her in order to identify her whereabouts and the identity of the kidnapper. Jordan later recognises the kidnapper’s voice over the phone and sees this call as a chance at redemption, so she gives all her best efforts to help Casey. But will she succeeds in her intent?

Halle, was that afro really necessary?
Halle, was that afro really necessary?

Despite the films straight-to-video looking intro, the picture really picks up speed once Casey Welson has been abducted, from there on in suspense is heightened with flaunting realism and tension-building moments as director Anderson exploits the physical situation for everything it’s worth, showcasing his considerable skill at building anxiety and dread. The ups and downs of victim Casey Welson contending with a psychotic maniac truly make this movie gripping stuff for the most part. The lovely Abigail Breslin, Zombieland (2009), has really grown up, she gives a fantastically believable performance as the teenager in distress; Halle Berry portrays her 911 operator with enough conviction to drive the majority of the picture, but Michael Eklund, Watchmen (2009), truly steals the show as the highly unpredictable, unstable kidnaper Michael Foster, while The Sopranos (1999) Michael Imperioli is a great inclusion as a good Samaritan who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Things seem to be going well for the film, until its third act begins.

Once the chase ends it appears as director Anderson and screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio, Thir13en Ghosts (2001), have no-where to go with the material, so the picture descends into the somewhat cliché torture/ slasher film territory. As a horror fan myself, this wasn’t particularly an issue up until Jordan violates every rule she has taught her 911 trainees thus far and turns into a vigilante intent on seeking personal satisfaction from punishing the kidnapper herself. Other characters seem too ‘jump-the-shark’ so to speak as well, with kidnaper Michael Foster going from a highly believable sociopath to an outrageous lunatic who scalps women in his creepy basement, even teenager Casey Welson seems to relish the female empowerment exhibited by Berry’s character, which goes against her damsel in distress persona from earlier. It truly feels as though another director took the reins and simply ignored what conspired earlier, turning a tense thriller into an obscure torture porn picture ultimately tarnishing Anderson’s great work in the film’s first and second acts. Once The Call ditches logic and becomes a twisted psycho thriller it is spoiled by an avalanche of plot holes, inconsistencies and just plain dopey behavior from characters who really should know better. While few horror enthusiasts, such as myself, might get a kick out of the flick’s third act, it essentially doesn’t work.

Abigail Breslin as the unsuspecting victim
Abigail Breslin as the unsuspecting victim

Fundamentally, The Call is definitely worth your time as it does contain plenty of hard hitting moments throughout, it’s very polished and smartly put together, fast-paced and should keep most viewers on the edge of their seats, it’s just a shame the finale will disappoint most rather than satisfy. The picture also sports some fine performances from its two leads, a young actress turned emotionally adolescent and a former Oscar winner trying to recover her long-lost acclaim; this call is certainly worth picking up.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

The Call is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia