Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Call: Movie Review

Emotional, dramatic thriller that keeps it together despite some ridiculous antics.

The premise of “The Call” works well for an independent, straightly-told thriller. And that’s what we got. Focusing only on 911 operator Jordan (Halle Berry), the plot evolves over the phone when cute, blonde teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is kidnapped. Like the actress herself, Berry’s Jordan is an experienced, hard-working woman who’s had some tough breaks in life. The first call doesn’t work out so well, but when she’s back at work she has to rely on her training and insights. 2013

Directed by: Brad Anderson

Screenplay by: Richard D'Ovidio

Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin and Michael Eklund

It’s a well-written thriller, keeping the plot tight and the pace quick, and it completely relies on the hour-and-a-half long 911 call from scared and frightened Casey to tired but confidant Jordan. The movie is at its best when it lets the writing speak for itself and Jordan talks Casey into her best chances for survival.

Don’t let the fact that this is produced by the WWE scare you off. They’re trying to make their way as an independent film production company and previous offerings like “That’s What I Am” (2011) were pretty good. Unfortunately, “The Call” definitely comes across as amateur at times. There were way too many close-up shots of Breslin’s face as she screamed in terror, and the teenage girls didn’t actually come across as real teenage girls but a satire of them.

As the plot weaves through traffic and close-calls, it does require you to care for these characters to be able to hang on for the entire ride. But these characters are pretty easy to like. Jordan does the best she can at her job, and considering the horrors that 911 operators must witness every day, we care for her and understand her trepidations but we also want to support her. She’s a straight-forward character but Berry plays her sympathetically without going over-the-top for hysterics. She needs to save Casey and we want her to.

We eventually get to know the criminal better. It’s pretty clear that he’s a reactionary psychopath suffering from personal tragedy. He’s determined and crazy but he’s also not that smart. A good villain for this type of story. But the problem with the story (as is the case for many films) is that they don’t know how to end it, and we end up veering straight off the road into silly, horror-type territory. The dramatic thriller elements were good but it probably wasn’t entertaining enough for the general audience and before we know it we have a cheesy horror film with a gory ending. But “The Call” manages to remain entertaining and the ridiculous ending doesn’t destroy the genuine emotional elements of the thriller that came before it.