The Call Directed by: Brad Anderson Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: R Release Date: March 15, 2013
PLOT: A 911 operator (Berry) gets sucked in to a call from a girl (Breslin) who has just been abducted. The operator has had tragedy strike before, and now she'll do anything to help this girl survive.
WHO'S IT FOR? There are a few tense moments in this thriller, but much of the style of the film feels more like a made-for-TV movie.
The Call could have been wall to wall terrible. If I told you the exact plot points, and gave away all of the spoilers, you'd roll your eyes and be happy you skipped this thriller. What's odd is, there are some really good performances, a pretty good idea, and some creative moments in the script. The problems lie in the director/cinematography, and an over-the-top third act.
Berry plays Jordan. Her dad was a good cop, and now she's a 911 operator. Most films would hint at a tragic past, or even do a flashback later on in the film. This one starts with Jordan's tragic moment, which she must then live with, and try to bounce back from. As you could guess, it's a 911 call where she actually messes up. It's one of those movie moments that sucks you in, and makes you feel for her.
Later on (six months later to be exact), it's even believable when she finds herself now helping an abducted Casey (Breslin). The hive (that's the cool lingo for the 911 call center) feels real. The computer software, techniques, and conversations are all working for me. That wasn't what I expected. I figured I would feel trapped on the phone with Berry, and this thriller wouldn't have movement. That's not the case. It's especially interesting when Jordan has Casey do everything she can to get other cars to notice her on the highway.
The technical look of the film completely gets in the way of the thrilling situation. Anderson and his team employ odd zooms, weird cuts, occasional hand-helds, slow motion and stop footage. All of this removes you from the drama, and makes you realize you are watching a dumb movie. This is completely a case of a director getting in the way of the movie he is trying to create. If you are watching a movie, and the screen freezes, it has to be for a great reason. The Call uses it to simply point out the obvious. Nothing in this movie is difficult to understand, so you don't need to spend multiple shots focusing in on a second cell phone. We know Casey is going to have a cell phone, look at the title of the movie.
The third act becomes laughable for a variety of reasons. Jordan goes looking for clues, alone, in the dark, with no cell phone reception, and no weapons. I don't think her cop dad taught her that one. Not only that, the ending of the film attempts to take empowerment to an uncomfortable, almost laughable, extreme.
Berry and Breslin do good work here for the majority of the film. I was connected to them, but the movie does everything it can to get in the way of that connection. Simply put, you don't need to answer The Call.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10