By Jonathan Kellam
The Call (2013)
Directed by Brad Anderson
** ½ out of ****
Halle Berry – Jordan Turner
Abigail Breslin – Casey Wilson
Morris Chestnut – Officer Paul Phillips
Michael Imperioli – Alan Denado
Director Brad Anderson’s The Call opens with a tense scene depicting 9-1-1 operator Jordan Turner handling a call from a young woman who has an intruder in her home. It is in this early scene that Berry proves once again that she is one of Hollywood’s most gifted actresses when given the right role. She is cool and collected, yet intense and commanding as the veteran 9-1-1 operator. Unfortunately, Jordan makes one simple but terrible mistake that costs the young woman her life. Six months go by and Jordan has been reassigned to training new employees on the ins-and-outs of “the Hive”, referring to the operators’ floor. It is during one of these training sessions that a rookie operator seems unable to handle a call and Jordan decides to take over. It is a teenage girl named Casey Wilson who has been kidnapped and is trapped in the trunk of a car. The following half hour or so is clever, gripping, and unpredictable, which makes it all the more unfortunate that this movie really slouches in it’s third act. Basically, the police are failing to locate Casey, so Jordan decides to take matters into her own hands and find Casey herself. Right…
Among Brad Anderson’s directing credits is the cult classic, The Machinist, starring Christian Bale, the terrific thriller, Transsiberian, starring Woody Harrelson, and several episodes of the critically acclaimed sci-fi television show, Fringe. The Machinist and Transsiberian are both excellent films and are great examples for what other films in the thriller genre should aspire to be. The Call doesn’t quite reach that height. With the first two acts, I thought there was going to be another great film to add to Anderson’s portfolio, but, alas, the third act severely disappointed. 9-1-1 operators are truly some of the unsung heroes in this nation, but it simply exceeds the capacity for the suspension of disbelief when one of them operator goes rogue and tracks the unfortunate victim herself. Anderson’s next film will be Eliza Graves, which is based on an early Edgar Allan Poe story and is set to star Kate Beckinsale. Let us hope for something more closely resembling his earlier films.
This film is an important one for both Ms. Berry and Ms. Breslin. Halle Berry enjoyed a promising career throughout the 1990’s and was finally catapulted to the A-list with her Oscar-winning performance in Monster’s Ball. Then something horrible happened: Catwoman. Widely considered one of the worst films of all time and, not to mention, a box office bomb, Catwoman was a huge detriment to Berry’s career. Besides a third entry in the X-Men series, Berry’s films over the next several years were generally limited-release and lukewarmly received. Now, nearly a decade after the abomination that was Catwoman, it appears that Berry is making a very welcome comeback with last year’s Cloud Atlas, in which she starred opposite Tom Hanks and now The Call, the first wide-released film she has headlined since 2007’s Perfect Stranger. Berry has always been quite versatile in her acting ability and has been very brave in some of her choices. Her performance in The Call is undoubtedly one of the film’s finer qualities. Abigail Breslin was probably one of the most popular child actors in the history of American cinema. She charmed audiences worldwide as Olive Hoover in the small budget comedy Little Miss Sunshine, which earned Breslin an Oscar nomination. She went on to star in many well-received films including the surprisingly remarkable romantic-comedy, Definitely, Maybe; the tearjerker, My Sister’s Keeper; and the hit zombie-themed comedy, Zombieland. Then Breslin reached the age where she was not exactly a child actor anymore. Many child actors, even the most critically acclaimed, struggle to maintain their careers as adults. When is the last time you’ve seen Haley Joel Osment? Although the range of her role is limited, Breslin is good in this and I believe she has a decent shot at maintaining a strong film career as an adult actress.
If you’re looking to kill an hour and a half, you could do a lot worse than The Call. The fact that the first hour is so well done is what makes the weakness of the last half hour so tragic. I can guarantee, however, that if you see this you will be on the edge of your seat and most importantly, you will be entertained. You just may have to push your suspension of disbelief to the limit.