Review: The Call
PLOT: Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is a veteran 911 dispatch operator, reeling from an incident where she was unable to save a girl from the clutches of a serial killer. Six months later, Jordan gets a call from Casey (Abigail Breslin) whose been abducted by the same killer. With time running out, and no trace on her cell phone- Jordan frantically tries to help Casey save herself from becoming another victim.
REVIEW: THE CALL (or as it was originally titled, THE HIVE- the nickname of Jordan's dispatch center) is 2/3rds of a slam bang thriller. For the first hour of THE CALL's ninety minutes, I was thoroughly on the edge of my seat- before being let down by an all-too predictable and corny ending.
Still- 2/3rds of a good movie is better than 1/3rd or nothing, and there's an awful lot that's good about THE CALL- much more than you'd expect given the low-key buzz. Director Brad Anderson adapts well to a big-studio thriller, compared to his earlier, more indie-flavored films such as SESSION 9, and THE MACHINIST (a classic). Years spent honing his craft on cable, with episodes of THE KILLING, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, FRINGE and more have made Anderson a master of storytelling economy. Running a quick ninety minutes, THE CALL never feels short-changed in story or character development, while still making way for loads and loads of thrills.
Indeed, the first hour- which cross-cuts between Jordan at The Hive, and Casey, who's trapped in the trunk of the killer's car, is pretty superb. The editing, minus a few annoying jump-cuts and gimmicks, is mostly dead-on, and Anderson ratchets up the intensity to the point that there were people in the audience that I saw this with that were actually screaming in terror. John Debney's killer score, and some interesting musical choices (including inspired use of 80's one-hit-wonder Taco's cover of “Puttin' on the Ritz”) go a long way giving THE CALL a pulse-pounding beat, which is way better than most other studio horror flicks I've seen lately.
It also helps that the two leads, Halle Berry, and Abigail Breslin, are excellent. Berry's suffered through a few stinkers lately, but she brings her A-game to THE CALL, and makes a believable, compassionate dispatcher- who'd literally trade her own life for Breslin's if able. She's terrific, and I'd say this is her best role in a while. Abigail Breslin is also extremely likable as the young girl in trouble- and most importantly for a film like this, you really don't want anything bad to happen to her.
It's too bad then that THE CALL goes terribly wrong in the last half-hour, which feels really manufactured, and more like something out of one of the SAW sequels than this previously classy horror-thriller. I don't want to give anything away, but if you've seen the preview you've likely got an idea of what my big issue is. I don't know why Anderson and company decided to ditch the 911 dispatch gimmick after it had been going so well, but where they end up going with the film really strains believability- especially in the film's final “twist”.
But- like I wrote earlier, 2/3rds of a really solid horror film is better than none, and on that level, I still have to give THE CALL a recommendation. Sure- it goes awry, but there's a good, solid hour of the movie that's just great.