Directed by Brad Anderson
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
As a fan of filmmaker Brad Anderson’s work (especially the underrated Session 9 and Christian Bale starrer The Machinist), this writer was a bit ambivalent about the announcement of Anderson’s newest film, the Halle Berry-led thriller The Call. Sure, I thought, it’d be nice to see the mostly indie filmmaker tackle a feature with a healthy budget and an Oscar winner attached, especially considering that it was all but guaranteed a wide release into theatres, but would his quirky sensibilities get scrubbed away by the Hollywood system? Fortunately, the answer ultimately wound up being “no”. Though The Call is certainly Anderson’s most accessible work to date, there are still enough of the director’s stylistic trappings to please his fans.
Opening with an introduction to “The Hive”, the LA 911 emergency call center the film is predominantly set within, The Call focuses on emergency operator Jordan Turner (Berry), a pro at her job whose confidence is stripped away when a mistake leads to the death of a teenaged girl at the hands of her abductor. Months pass, with Jordan having taken on the role of instructor at the call center, until a series of circumstances lead Jordan to pick up the headset again to help Casey (Breslin), a young teenager in the grips of a potential serial killer. The film follows Jordan’s desperate attempts to save Casey and earn a sort of redemption for her past mistakes – especially when it’s discovered that the current perpetrator is the same murderer she ran afoul of months previous.
When The Call works, it works very well. The acting is top notch, and the film is often quite intense (as it leaps from one gripping setpiece to the next). It’s also a surprisingly violent and creepy flick for what this writer assumed would be a typical mainstream thriller, what with its frequent bloodshed and our villain’s icky backstory – to say nothing of the film parading the sixteen-year old Breslin around in nothing but jeans and a bra for the film’s climax (for the thinnest of reasons, plotwise).
The movie only really falters when it begins to near the finish line, when the plot removes Jordan from The Hive and drops her directly into harm’s way. The circumstances leading her to the climax are believable enough, even if the coincidences that keep her there and from phoning the police are not. Worse still, the “you go, girl!” moment which concludes the film runs counter to everything we’ve learned about the characters over the previous ninety minutes. Still, even for its faults, it’s a damned entertaining and well-directed film, and is well worth checking out for those with ninety minutes to kill.
The movie’s obvious digital photography is betrayed by Sony’s Blu-ray transfer, what with its occasionally washed out colors and blacks (though, of course, the picture is quite sharp throughout). The DTS 5.1 audio track, however, is just superb. Features-wise, The Call sports a decent enough collection, including: an alternate ending, which really only adds a few shots to the film’s conclusion (which hardly alters a thing); a pretty lively and fun commentary featuring Anderson, Berry, Breslin, writer D’Ovidio, and a handful of the film’s producers; a small collection of deleted scenes which were wisely trimmed (except, perhaps, for a brief moment with Eklund); a fifteen-minute making-of featurette which covers a good deal of ground concerning the film’s production in its brief amount of time; a short mini-doc on the film’s stuntwork; two set tours (looking at the “Hive” and “Lair” sets); and finally, Michael Eklund’s audition tape. This feature, a short film Eklund shot to pursue the part, opens with a bizarre glimpse into his character’s mindset (some moments of which need to be seen to be believed), while the rest of the footage features the character’s biggest moments from the script reenacted by the talented thesp. It’s a neat glimpse at the evolution of Eklund’s performance, and at the actor’s dedication and drive to win the role. Overall, a solid disc for a solid film.
Ultimately, while The Call may not be Anderson’s best or edgiest flick to date, it’s still worth a look for those who’ve enjoyed his past work. It’s a well crafted white knuckler and is certainly worth a rental at the very least. Here’s hoping you enjoy.
3 out of 5
3 out of 5