UK Release Date: 20th September 2013
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Brad Anderson
Writer: Richard D’Ovidio
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund, Morris Chestnut
Synopsis: A 911 call operator is traumatised when a bad decision of hers leads to a girl’s death. Six months later, the tragic events start to repeat themselves in front of her.
The problem that a lot of high concept thriller movies have is the curse of the badly written third act. It’s easy to set up a tense thriller, but a lot harder to give it a fitting ending. In that vein comes Brad Anderson’s The Call, which is a great example of how a solid set-up can be wasted by a terrible climax.
Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is an experienced 911 operator, dating police officer Phillips (Morris Chestnut). One call, however, goes badly and a girl ends up kidnapped and dead. Six months later, Jordan has quit the job to teach new operators, but ends up donning the headset again as another young girl (Abigail Breslin) is taken.
The Call is, in some ways, one of the most disappointing movies of the year. It’s not a bad film, by any stretch of the imagination, but it does create a great set-up for a nail-biting thriller only to throw it away with a horror-inflected third act resolution that could’ve come out of any torture porn flick.
It would’ve been less depressing if The Call had been bad from the start. However, director Brad Anderson (The Machinist) does an outstanding job of marshalling the film’s first hour, which is an ingeniously stripped down thriller powered by a scintillating central performance from Halle Berry.
Anderson proves adept at creating incredible tension with his minimalist setting. His camera cuts frantically between Berry trying to keep her calm in the call centre and Abigail Breslin’s terrified face in the confines of the kidnapper’s car boot. As their attempts at escape continue to almost succeed, the tension continues to be ratcheted up until it becomes almost unbearable.
Then Halle Berry takes matters into her own hands and everything goes wrong. To reveal any more would spoil the film’s climactic twists and turns, but suffice it to say that The Call gets a little silly. People run around a lot and there’s a liberal splattering of gore, complete with a final shot that just needed the words “game over” to be a bona fide Saw ending.
Brad Anderson is a very interesting filmmaker and The Call is a very interesting film. However, in lieu of a decent third act, it isn’t acceptable to just tack any old rubbish onto the end of a movie. With a bit longer spent on the script, this could’ve been thriller of the year. Ultimately though, it’s a fairly missable few hours.
More than anything else, The Call just comes across as a waste of great potential.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.