Title: The Call
Director(s): Brad Anderson
Release Year: 2013
For a while, The Call is a tense thriller that doesn’t try to be smart or edgy, but just seems like a good time while walking the line between ridiculous and serious. It is the moment that line is erased that I realized I wasn’t just watching another run-of-the-mill thriller, but was experiencing a moment in time I would not soon forget. A movie that absolutely invites the audience in to enjoy its cheap thrills, Brad Anderson has crafted an exhilarating roller coaster ride; one that is not afraid to completely lose face by following every cliche until its sudden ending. The Call is not a great movie, but it is an experience that is worth having.
Everything about this movie made me hesitant on seeing it, from Halle Berry playing Halle Berry but with a frizzy haircut that only black women are allowed to have in movies, to the fact that this is a WWE Studios film. However, it seems WWE Studios is trying to branch out beyond its wrestling brand and begin releasing quality films, with their wrestlers as minor characters (take Dead Man Down for example). One way to help separate themselves from the generic action films that plagued their filmography for years is to start hiring talented directors, and Brad Anderson is as good a start as any. Then throw well-known actors like Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin intto the mix and you have yourself a recipe for a half-decent film. Really what The Call ends up being is two-thirds of a good thriller, and then a final act which just forsakes any sense merely for the sake of becoming a fun film. The best part is that it works so well.
The entire premise is that Halle Berry’s character, Jordan, is a 911 operator who answers a burglary call which results in a teenage girl being murdered. She stops being an operator because she blames herself for what happened, and becomes an instructor for those looking to apply as operators. When another 911 call comes from Casey (Abigail Breslin), a teenage girl who has been kidnapped and stashed in a trunk, Jordan takes over for the new operator (who has no idea what to do, despite having been trained) and attempts to save Casey. The twist is, the person who kidnapped Casey is the same person who murdered the girl who called about a burglary so many months ago. Jordan knows what she’s doing now and becomes a massive help for the police who are searching for Casey, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the police can’t seem to find her. So despite the fact that Jordan is technically not the police, but is dating one of the cops helping find Casey, she does her own digging, doesn’t tell anyone what she has found out, and starts hunting down the man who has kidnapped Casey.
Well, the moment she stops being an operator and becomes a detective is when the movie starts showing its fatigue. They reveal in the movie that the hard part about a 911 operator’s job is that they have no way of knowing what happens after the call, but Jordan is a woman who will not let the call be the end of her assistance. Clearly the movie had to go in this direction, otherwise not having known what has happened would have been a very unsatisfying ending, or even not having our main character be the one to deliver justice. So what is given in the third act is a completely ludicrous ending, going into territories of incest and torture, without ever batting an eyelash at its absurdity. Our main villain, Michael Foster, is played in the creepiest way possible by Michael Eklund who makes me want to see him in more things, but none will probably rise up to the heights of this film. It is a role that requires an emotional brokenness and a psychopathic nature that Eklund thrives in.
Really, Eklund is the only one who stands out though, as Halle Berry does really just play the typical Halle Berry character: caring, yet worried, and always yearning to know more. It is not until the third act when she has to shed this character, that she becomes the generic final arc of any horror character. Abigail Breslin is essentially screaming the entire movie, but there’s something underneath all the shrieks that one could recognize as talent, yet I really haven’t been impressed with her since Little Miss Sunshine and this does nothing to change that. And as a quick sidebar, the make-up and prosthetics given to her near the end were laughably bad. I’m assuming it was intentional because it’s not as if there was much make-up in the film that they couldn’t focus a bit more on this one piece, but as I said, it was probably intentional.
It is likely going to take a lot of convincing to get people, specifically film buffs, to watch this, and it really is not for everyone. But if the tagline “There are 188 million 911 calls a year; This one made it personal” sounds like a fun time, this is the movie to go see. For me, that did sound like a fun time, and what I got was exactly that. There are copious amounts of problems in the third act of the movie, but the first two acts are so well-done that it’s hard to believe that the final act simply nosedives in quality unintentionally. The acts are broken up so obviously, and everything about the movie is worn on its sleeve, except for the major twists near the end which are laughable from a critical standpoint, but are absolutely incredible from an entertainment perspective. It is highly doubtful that this film will have much impact on you if you are watching it alone, or for a second time, but with a group of people this could be one of the most enjoyable film experiences that you have this year.