Call, The (2013)

The Call (2013)Starring Abigail Breslin, Halle Berry, Michael Eklund, Morris Chestnut

Directed by Brad Anderson

If one felt that the television trailer for the TriStar film The Call possibly communicates the majority of the film’s narrative plot points, then one would be correct. It’s a perplexing marketing gaffe, truly, in that it succeeds in sabotaging a majority of the tension the production intends. Fortunately for The Call, director Brad Anderson’s multi talents, coupled with Avi Youabian’s adept editing and the film’s solid cast, manage to generate enough tension that the proceedings, at least during the film’s first two acts, should prove harrowing for general audiences.

From the opening vertiginous tracking aerial shot of Los Angeles and accompanying aural collage of dramatic 911 calls, the flick wastes no time in charging from the gate. Penned by Richard D'Ovidio (Thir13en Ghosts) and based on an original story by Nicole D'Ovidio, Jon Bokencamp, and the scribe, The Call revolves around veteran 911 operator Jordan (Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry), who, fielding a home break-in call from a fair-haired teenage girl, attempts to assist her, with unfortunately disastrous results (the caller is located and murdered by the intruder following Jordan's inexplicable decision to hit "redial" upon losing the connection, which subsequently compromises the girl's hiding place).

Now suffering post traumatic stress disorder and harboring a healthy guilt complex following her caller’s murder, Jordan is soon thrust professionally once again into the fray, as yet another blonde pubescent (Oscar-nominee actress Abigail Breslin) has been abducted, wouldn't you know it, by the same man (The Divide actor Michael Eklund, who portrays child-killer Michael Foster), whom Jordan suspects of slaughtering the prior girl. Imprisoned in the trunk of the kidnapper's speeding car, Casey's plight (as well as the majority of the first and second acts) plays out over the course of the emergency call which she places to Jordan (conveniently on an untraceable cell phone, which elicits some ingenuity from screenwriter D’Ovidio, and subsequently from Jordan, in her attempt to locate and save the girl).

While this machination does require viewers to suspend their disbelief that Foster is unable to hear the hysterical conversation emanating from his trunk, or Casey’s kicking out of the vehicle’s rear tail light, for that matter, it works quite well. Anderson’s tight-framing and cross-cutting between the 911 call center, Casey and the pursuing LAPD ground and air units, coupled with Berry and Breslin’s emotionally charged and committed performances and D’Ovidio’s believable procedural dialogue, succeeds in generating considerable suspense. Additionally, the appearance of supporting player Michael Imperioli adds some choice meat to the bone. Some clever narrative turns as well keep the audience engaged and guessing.

The problem, however, arrives during the final act, when Jordan leaves the intriguing world of the call center (and thus that narrative environment) in an attempt to locate Casey, something LAPD officers Paul Philips and Jake Devans (portrayed by actors Morris Chestnut and David Otunga) have been unable to do (both actors put in good performances, though unfortunately aren’t given much to work with). All too conveniently, Jordan without pause locates Foster’s unsurprisingly creepy lair, and The Call’s third act quickly descends down a grim rabbit hole into serial killer cliche, eschewing its effectively taut, suspense-thriller identity for something exploitative (the sexualizing of the bra-clad, underage Breslin seems unnecessary and ugly) and rather formulaic (comparisons to the final act of the superior The Silence of the Lambs are unavoidable). Further, Jordan and Casey’s last-minute turn to vigilante avengers seems a questionable choice, given their preceding characterizations.

Still, The Call is a fun ride while it lasts, and even with the third act, it’s worth a matinee. Here’s hoping, though, for Anderson’s return to the type of daring, thoughtful filmmaking he delivered previously with Session 9, Transsiberian and The Machinist.

3 out of 5

Discuss The Call in the comments section below!


moderator Much to my surprise, I
Debi Moore's picture

Much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed The Call. Kept me both on the edge of my seat and emotionally engaged throughout. Loved the ending. Female empowerment - rah! Really happy for Anderson and Berry (who is spellbinding and very believable) that it's doing so well. My rating - 4/5.

Submitted by Debi Moore on Sat, 03/16/2013 - 10:26pm.
Screamz's picture

Session 9 was amazing, especially since I've worked in hospitals and old buildings full of asbestos and truly creepy basements and long, foreboding hallways. Didn't know Brad Anderson directed this until reading the review, so I'm sure to check it out, perhaps when it hits DVD...

Submitted by Screamz on Fri, 03/15/2013 - 12:44am.
Terminal's picture

I feel like I've seen the movie already from the trailer, so I may wait a long while before seeing this.

Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 03/14/2013 - 6:53pm.
moderator Damn. I really hope
Debi Moore's picture

Damn. I really hope Anderson's best days aren't behind him. As much as I love, love, love Session 9, nothings he's done since (except a few TV shows here and there) has come even close to that level.

Submitted by Debi Moore on Thu, 03/14/2013 - 6:40pm.
Matt Serafini's picture

I agree. SESSION 9 is amazing.

Everything that followed has been LOL-worthy.

Submitted by Matt Serafini on Thu, 03/14/2013 - 6:56pm.
Terminal's picture

I thought The Machinist was a masterpiece. On par with Session 9.

Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 03/14/2013 - 6:54pm.
Diavolo's picture

While I feel Session 9 is the better film, I have to agree that not recognizing The Machinist gives the impression that Brad Anderson was a one hit wonder (I'll admit to even quite liking The Vanishing on 7th Street).

Submitted by Diavolo on Fri, 03/15/2013 - 3:04pm.
Matt Serafini's picture

Save for Bale's performance, I think The Machinist is horrible.

Whole thing is anchored by the most obvious twist ending of all time. A very one-note movie without nothing interesting to say.

I hated it.

Submitted by Matt Serafini on Fri, 03/15/2013 - 3:19pm.
Debi Moore's picture

Ditto. Bale's performance was great, but his appearance - and all the hullabaloo around it at the time - was such a distraction, and the story itself just didn't work for me at all. Yes, Vanishing was "okay," and to a lesser degree so was Transsiberian, but neither came close to the magic of S9.

Submitted by Debi Moore on Fri, 03/15/2013 - 3:47pm.
Terminal's picture

Tragically under estimating the brilliance of The Machinist. Bale is only part of that under appreciated masterpiece.

Submitted by Terminal on Fri, 03/15/2013 - 4:54pm.
Diavolo's picture

Session 9 had far more atmosphere than The Machinist, but I personally admire how tightly scripted the latter was. It was good to watch a film that had subtly dropped clues through out the run time, rather than blindsiding you by omission. After the fact I could say I saw the ending coming, but at the time I was unaware how it would resolve.

Submitted by Diavolo on Sat, 03/16/2013 - 11:50am.

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