Giving us an interesting look into the other side of the 911 plea, The Call gives one plenty to holler about (for better or worse), but ultimately betrays its strong premise. But if you like mayhem, perhaps that’s not a bad thing…
Here we meet Halle Berry as 911 operator Jordan Turner, clearly an example of excellence in her field. During a call from a teenage girl alone at home being pursued by a home invader, Jordan makes a judgment call that kicks in a case of PTSD and puts her career in jeopardy. When circumstances force her onto a call in which history is repeating itself, she (and we) find out if she has the fortitude to face the dragon. Oh, and the assailant? Same guy.
The Call starts strongly, but ends up being more of a crashing wave (emphasis on crashing). A solid swell at the outset with effective communication of the milieu of the call center environment, of the temperament necessary to the work, and of the intensity that can occur during the call. Promising.
Conflict established, it coasts into an informative tutorial on the inner workings of the “The Hive” as communicated to us through Jordan. Personally I found it to be miserably expositive, one of those often unsuccessful attempts at using a scenario to transfer information (for example, sitting around a table so as not to spoil), and probably looked better on paper. Still, the device wasn’t the most tragic in the world. I’m still watching.
And then the wave achieved momentum, and The Call settled into a groove that held promise of being at best the likes of Speed and at worst, something we wish were Speed but still enjoy. Well-directed and nicely paced chases, suspenseful action, hopes and near misses and hopes again, keen frustration and mental notes to check the GPS setting on the phone after. There was even some cool inspiration as to what kind of power one may actually have when one is powerless in an kidnapper’s trunk. If this kept up, all could be forgiven.
Alas, it was not to be. Suspense wilts into predictability, the marvelous shot at redemption ends up an implausibility, and the showdown reduces our heretofore clever heroine to the dimwitted individual of slasher gore, walking so mindlessly into peril that one feels they almost deserve what they get (note to Jordan: you’re not Clarice Starling, you’re just being stupid). Arguably one might find satisfaction in the ending on a visceral level (if one’s viscera are still paying attention), but with regard to crafting it leaves one wanting. There went that.
With regard to cast, The Call boasts a nice, if largely wasted, assembly. There was nothing special enough about any character for the actors to grasp hold of, so we end up with little to remember overall (kind of like that one where stuff happened in front of a big government building, and people met on a fancy patio, what was that one? Oh well… anyway… ah! Alex Cross, yeah…) Halle Berry does fine, though I couldn’t help but think the role could just as easily have been filled by Ashley Judd (the character was her kinda vibe), and the surrounding actors were consummate professionals who did very well at doing what was asked ~ that being basically to speak sentences that Jordan bounces against.
The bright spot, if there is one, is Abigail Breslin. In process of transitioning from charming and remarkably nuanced child (Signs, Little Miss Sunshine), she’s finding her way toward her adult voice. By and large this has been going well (Janie Jones is well worth a look), and here she holds her own as the panicked abductee. Her career deserves no dings for this one, whatever the film’s shortcomings otherwise.
Unfortunate. But if you want to support the cast and don’t mind some shallow crafting, then The Call could be worth the jingle. Just be sure you can afford to lose the money.
Halle Berry handles The Call with professionalism, passion, and a trooper's dedication to keeping a faltering script afloat.