Director: Brad Anderson
Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund
Running time: 94 mins
Release date: 20th September 2013
Over the last decade or more, director Brad Anderson has been delivering solid, grim, gritty material, from films like The Machinist and Transsiberian to his prolific TV work on shows like The Wire and The Killing. In terms of both style and substance, The Call fits right alongside the rest of his slightly sinister output.
Halle Berry is Jordan, a 911 operator who is left traumatised after a call with a P.R. (that’s Person Reporting in emergency service-speak) ends in tragedy, one for which she blames herself. She gets a classic shot at redemption when teenager Casey (Abigail Breslin) is abducted and Jordan finds herself on the hook again. Not too many films spring to mind that deal with the thoughts and actions of the people on the receiving end of those intense phone calls, but The Call shows that there’s plenty of drama to be mined there.
Berry is good in the role; not ‘forgiven for Catwoman’ good but, between this and Cloud Atlas, this could be the year she finally gets out of that post-Oscar slump. Breslin is great as a tough nut damsel in distress; she makes an impressive leap from Little Miss Sunshine to bona fide scream queen. As for the villain, from Bateman to Bates, he’s a fusion of a few screen crazies (he even shares Patrick’s predilection for cheesy ‘80s pop), but Michael Eklund sells it well. He gives good psycho, once you get over the fact that he looks like a strung-out Ethan Hawke.
Anderson specialises in movies that have all the hallmarks of horror, while never quite belonging to the genre itself, and this is no exception. The tension grips at your guts early on and only tightens as it goes; meanwhile the odd jump scare threatens to loosen them altogether. The camera gets invasively close to the action and it can be uncomfortably claustrophobic at times; Breslin admirably spends a significant chunk of the movie locked in a car boot. There are some clever ideas thrown in amongst the clichés, but the film takes things a little too far later on. The last act is a bit of a stretch; maybe the suits at WWE Studios demanded a little more brutality than was really necessary (and before you ask, yes, it’s that WWE, and yes, there is a wrestler in this movie).
In spite of this though, The Call is a more enjoyable watch than might have been expected. While it does take the well-travelled road of the ‘against-the-clock’ thriller, there are enough bumps along the way to keep it interesting.