The Call (2013)

Directed by Brad Anderson
Written by Richard D’Ovidio

For whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of discussion surrounding this film and Halle Berry. Something to do with an Oscar curse, the concept that because she won the award for Best Actress in 2002 for her role in the film Monster’s Ball, a performance I’ve actually never seen, she is now cursed, and cannot have a good role/performance/movie now. It is true that she has not risen to the accolades of that year, and released more than her fair share of stinkers (re: Catwoman). But I’m not buying it. A performance is a performance, and while I have not seen it, I fully expect that it’s just fine, and Berry has been a big figure in cinema the last decade. Her work as Storm in the X-Men series was nice, and even in last year’s Cloud Atlas. It doesn’t matter to me if she never gets back there; we should be celebrating the fact she was ever there at all.

In her latest film she stars as a troubled 911 operator. A veteran in the position, daughter of a former cop, and girlfriend to a current cop, Jordan (Berry) encounters a breaking and entering call which causes her to lose her edge as an operator. After the fatal error of the call back, the girl hiding under her bed from the intruder ends up dead and Jordan blames herself. So she takes a step back from the position to be a teacher to the new operators, but when one of them gets into a situation she doesn’t know how to handle, Jordan once again finds herself in the operator seat, dealing with an abduction victim, Casey (Abigail Breslin) stuck in the trunk of a car. But soon enough Jordan finds she is dealing with the same killer who made her lose her edge before; things begin to spiral out of control and she must do whatever she can to not only find and save Casey, but to redeem herself for her previous mistakes.

It must be kept in mind that a story like this must only be possible in an age like today, when cell phones and super technology are a reality and not some futuristic dream of a sci-fi fanatic from the 1950s. But with such a story, care must also be taken that the use of the amazing technology does not give way to unbelievable plotlines. In this regard, writer Richard D’Ovidio fails miserably. Much of what unfolds in the film, but more the manner in which it occurs, kills any validity it may have had before hand. The set up is a beautiful thing for a suspense laden thriller. The very scary, and very real concept of a madman who abducts young girls and kills them. What is his story, his motive? But when that base is built up with shallow characters, and ludicrous connectors, it becomes an eye-rolling affair.

However, oh the however. As bad as the script may be, and as much a disservice it must do to the film, director Brad Anderson does all he must to make the material rise above, and by golly, he just may have pulled it off. Once the film gets going, and it really does, it speeds ahead all systems go, like a runaway train with no end in sight, ready to mow everything down in its way. This is one of the most suspenseful films I have seen in some time, with some genuinely brilliant sequences, constructed with such care and precision by director Brad Anderson, who has a history with thrills with the film Session 9, a low budget horror film that managed a creepy aura throughout. So if one is able to get past the script, to accept the fact that this character is here and in this situation, once the viewer allows the situation to be there, Anderson piles on the thrills for a fun ride. But not everybody will be able to get over that.

It creates a conflicted feeling within me, without a doubt. I can look back at the film and poke holes in it everywhere and comment on such poor and confusing characterizations, like the performance by Michael Eklund as the psychopathic killer. I think its brilliant, but I can’t be sure. Is he mentally challenged, or just psychotic? I tend to the former, but he is given a steady job and family who makes no hint at any issues with his psyche. I just don’t get what the heck is going on here, but the suspense and thrills are so wonderfully done that I couldn’t help but give in to its affect. Berry is fine in the lead role, as is Breslin as the kidnapped girl. She plays a good helpless teenager. Not everybody will have the reaction I did to the film, unable to get over the illogical story progression, but I gave in and had a pretty good time with the film, albeit a conflicted one.

*** – Very Good


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