WRITTEN BY: Richard D'Ovidio
DIRECTED BY: Brad Anderson
STARRING: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund, Morris Chestnut
RATING: 2 stars
Throughout most of The Call, it was such a thrilling ride that I found myself quietly whispering at the screen to warn the protagonists of danger. But then the climax and resolution came and ruined the entire experience. Suddenly, the suspenseful enjoyment was gone and we were left with a midday movie style ending. Alas, I am still lamenting how it could go so terribly wrong within a matter of minutes. For a while, the story worked when the characters were being reasonably intelligent in moments of crisis. But then the plot went off the rails and the characters fell into the trap of making ridiculously stupid mistakes that could not be overlooked or forgiven by even the most easy to please film viewer.
Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is one of the best at the Los Angeles 911 call centre until she makes a fateful mistake that leads to a girl being kidnapped and murdered. Jordan decides to become an instructor rather than work on the desk again, until she is forced to help when a junior worker panics about a girl being kidnapped. Casey (Abigail Breslin) is trapped in the trunk of a car when she calls 911. Soon Jordan and the field police, which includes her boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) must work quickly to save Casey before her abductor, Michael (Michael Eklund), realises they are looking for him.
I'm being very kind with my star rating only because the film was so thrilling for the first three quarters. Watching the excitement unfold, I was drawn into the drama and I really liked the way the story was told from the police dispatcher point of view. Unfortunately, director Brad Anderson was not able to keep the plot together, although some of the scenes were cut well between the female leads to enhance the anticipation and fear.
The performances helped sustain the film for the first half. Berry was strong and emotional in all the right moments – again, until the end. My only issue with her was with her odd 70's style hair, which was distracting to watch at times. It is hard to say more about her performance without spoiling the ending, suffice to say her character takes an unbelievable turn and Berry struggles with the dialogue. Breslin was also good, particularly considering much of her performance was in the boot of a car. You certainly felt her pain and sense of panic. However, I'm not sure why she had to spend the third act with her top off. Eklund was dark and creepy, but as you learn the extent of his warped personality, it becomes clear that writer Richard D'Ovidio was trying to throw as much crazy as he could into the character without much justification. It is all far too clichéd and cartoonish.
I really wanted to love The Call. During the screening, it was a lot of fun, and it was only after it finished that I realised how many plot holes there were. Despite those flaws, if it were not for the useless ending, I might still have enjoyed it just for the thrills. But the final scenes were perhaps the worst of any film I've seen recently.