Director: Brad Anderson
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, Roma Maffia
The Call is a simple thriller with a premise so perfect that it is amazing we haven’t seen it a dozen times before. Halle Berry plays Jordan Turner, a veteran 911 dispatcher in Los Angeles. She fields a call from Casey, a teenage girl who has been kidnapped by an unhinged man at the mall and is locked in the trunk of a moving car. Casey’s phone is disposable and therefore unable to be traced electronically, so it is up to Jordan to try and figure out where she is before the car reaches wherever it is headed.
They call the Los Angeles 911 phone centre ‘the Hive’ because it is always buzzing. The Hive is the hub which connects the many emergencies taking place in Los Angeles at any given moment with the first respondents who are sent to deal with them, and it is a really interesting setting for a thriller. Jordan is a middle-man, and as such the ideal substitute for the audience. Despite being in the middle of this situation and feeling a great deal of responsibility for its outcome, her ability to influence it is limited. Her feeling of helplessness as she hangs on the line as they try and get a trace on the phone is a similar feeling to ours as viewers, forced simply to watch on in horror as the events unfold.
With the exception of a short prologue giving us some backstory on Jordan, the events of the film take place over a period of just a few hours. The clock is always ticking and the tension building. Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin shoulder most of the responsibility of keeping us invested. Breslin, once the little girl from Little Miss Sunshine, is not required to do much more than cry and scream, but effectively embodies the terror of her situation. Berry finds the difficult balance of someone struggling to maintain the control and composure she’s been trained for in the face of an emotionally crippling situation.
Where the film goes off the rails, and ultimately what prevents it from becoming something quite special, is in its final act when we leave the Hive as Jordan takes it upon herself to do some detective work and get involved. This sacrifices what had been quite a unique and effective premise in favour of a much more run-of-the-mill situation and, ultimately, resolution. But that doesn’t change the fact that The Call, while a bit gruesome at times, is short and punchy and filled with tension. While it won’t necessarily rock your world, for people who love a thriller that can have them on the edge of their seat it is an ideal Friday night movie.
Rating – ★★★
Review by Duncan McLean