The Call (2013)
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // March 15, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted March 14, 2013
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As a huge fan of filmmaking, I have always been a full-fledged supporter of original motion pictures. In an industry filled with sequels, remakes, and prequels, it's always refreshing to see a stand-alone feature. Director Brad Anderson's The Call might have had an uninspired marketing campaign, but I was interested to see how this concept would be transferred to the big screen. We've all seen movies about police officers, but it isn't very often we get the chance to witness the situations from the perspective of the 911 operator. These people on the other end of the phone line are absolutely crucial to our society and ensuring that we get help when we need it. The job must take an incredible toll, especially after being involved in a call that ended poorly. The Call had potential to be an incredibly tense piece of filmmaking that would keep audiences sitting at the edge of their seats. While there are moments that will put a knot in your stomach, the plot ultimately transforms into a predictable mess.

Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) receives a call from a frantic girl (Evie Thompson) who finds herself paralyzed by fear. A man is breaking into her house and abducts her, which leaves Jordan feeling an incredible sense of guilt. She decides to become a teacher for those training to become 911 operators. After taking a lengthy break, she receives a call from a young Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin). She has been abducted and was thrown into the trunk of a man's car. Jordan realizes that she's dealing with the same killer from her past, but she plans on doing everything in her power to ensure a different ending. The veteran 911 operator must keep the young girl calm, as she tells her what to do in order to be rescued. However, the frequent twists hinder the teenage girl at every corner. Jordan must guide Casey to safety before the past repeats itself once again.

Enter "The Hive," which is the busy floor space being occupied by the 911 operators. The high volume of sound can become so overwhelming, they require a "Quiet Room" in order to calm themselves down after a bad call. We learn a little bit about Jordan Turner's personality while she's working, but we never get the opportunity to learn much more about her. She has a couple personal conversations with one of the police officers, but it doesn't help in adding any character depth. Unfortunately, Jordan is just as anonymous to audiences as she is to Casey Welson. For a film trying to shed light on a different side of the crime/thriller genre, the lead character is incredibly estranged. While we share some of the same emotions as Jordan, they're never towards her. Viewers don't learn very much about Casey, either, but her situation causes us to develop more sympathy towards her. Even though we know a very small amount about her, you'll still find yourself rooting for her to escape from the clutches of the killer who keeps her in the trunk of his car for the majority of the running time. When it comes to the killer, he doesn't carry a single memorable element. He's one of the most generic antagonists you'll come across in a thriller. This character is clearly a sick human being, but he isn't very menacing.

Despite the plot's flaws, there isn't a single dull moment to be found. The second act of the narrative contains some truly tense scenes, especially when Jordan is trying to discover Casey's precise location. While all of the results are predictable, writer Richard D'Ovidio keeps us engaged through their conversations. The dialogue shines its brightest during the emotional words coming from Casey, as she doesn't believe that survival is a possibility. If you don't care for this character very much through the first act, you most certainly will after hearing the message she wants to have delivered to her mother. While the characters aren't very smart, they still manage to make us care about what's going on. However, the third act makes a disappointing turn into a world of foolishness. Even our two protagonists are making the dumb mistakes you'd expect to see in any cliché-filled thriller. If this wasn't the end of the movie, audiences would quickly stop caring.

With a conclusion as weak as The Call's, audiences will leave with a horrid taste in their mouths. Whether or not you turn off your brain for this feature, you'll still find yourself laughing throughout the final twenty minutes. The narrative becomes so ridiculous that it destroys everything the picture was building up to. D'Ovidio has transformed a decent concept into something that feels far too familiar. The moment the credits begin rolling, it won't take long for viewers to guess which movie it's clearly stealing from. Instead of leaving us on a satisfied note, you'll more likely find yourself rolling your eyes. The genre clichés aren't utilized in a constructive way, as they're incorporated as fresh material. Since this picture has some suspenseful scenes, it's a letdown that the film ultimately falls flat on its face by the end.

Regardless of the material, Halle Berry is believable in the role of Jordan Turner. The depth found in her character is extremely slim, but she delivers the emotions raging within the protagonist rather well. Berry is quite sincere over the phone with Casey, even when the dialogue is less than stellar. Abigail Breslin plays the sweet and innocent Casey Welson convincingly. The Little Miss Sunshine star may be young, but she contributes quite a bit to the film. This isn't Michael Eklund's first performance in the role of the antagonist, but he doesn't manage to develop a threatening villain. He isn't horrible as a mentally disturbed man, but he should have pushed the role much further. Overall, the acting is collectively acceptable, but none of the performances are particularly memorable.

There isn't much that separates The Call from what you can watch on TV. While it's entertaining, a lot more could have been done from the perspective of the 911 operator. The film has its intense sequences, but the majority of the running time severely lacks any nail-bitting suspense. Those who are searching to connect with Jordan Turner will be upset to discover that we barely get to know her. The final twenty minutes are so disappointing that it critically injures the rest of the film. The Call is entertaining enough to watch on a slow weekend, even despite its severe lack of creativity. Rent it.

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