I have to say I wasn’t expecting very much from “The Call”. It looked basic and clichéd and the thought of Halle Berry teaming up with WWE wrestling’s movie production branch just wasn’t that appealing. Well now I have seen it and “The Call” is certainly basic and clichéd. But despite its flaws it is a movie that manages to remain entertaining throughout. There is just enough tension and just enough suspense to keep you invested. Unfortunately the eye-rolling ending almost undoes everything the film does right.
Berry plays a Los Angeles 911 operator. For me this was one of the strongest parts of the film. I may be wrong, but I don’t remember a movie ever looking at this side of the phone. We’ve had plenty of movies where we hear the 911 operator on the other end of the phone. In “The Call” we see the operators in their environment. The movie calls the place “the hive” and Berry plays a veteran operator named Jordan Turner. Berry is surprisingly convincing as she handles a variety of different calls. In fact the entire setting was well conceived and pretty fascinating.
But after a botched 911 call involving a kidnapped young girl ends tragically, the pressure drives Jordan away from the operating chair. She becomes a trainer of new operators but conveniently ends up taking over a call involving a very similar situation. A teen named Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is kidnapped from a local mall and she connects with Jordan via a cell phone hidden in her pocket. The rest of the film follows Jordan’s attempt to get information from Casey while the police rush to save her before things end badly.
“The Call” yanks several familiar elements from many thrillers we’ve already seen. It certainly doesn’t do anything new. Yet it is competently made and it’s aware that the pacing and intensity is essential to keeping the audience involved. It doesn’t waste a lot of time developing characters or throwing in too much unneeded backstory. Director Brad Anderson seems to know that he needs to keep his audience fixated on the intensity and suspense and if the pacing lulls there isn’t anything under the surface. For the most part Anderson pulls it off. The movie kept my attention all the way through and it deserves credit for that. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not and it succeeds as a whole.
But it’s certainly not a perfect film and as it reaches its climax things begin to run off the rails. First, you can’t help but notice some of the corny dialogue particularly when the script tries to add a little personality to the characters. There are also several of those head-scratching moments where the action of the characters simply doesn’t make sense. And then there is the ending. I’ve alluded to it twice already and I certainly don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the film goes in the direction that seems odd and frankly absurd. The big conclusion is so silly and nonsensical. It’s meant to be empowering but it leaves so many obvious holes and glaring question marks. All I could do was shake my head and wonder who came up with that ludicrous idea. It’s that bad.
And that’s disappointing. I say that because “The Call” surprised me. Not because of its depth or originality, but because it managed to entertain while tossing out some fairly good edge-of-your-seat suspense. Even with its flaws I was having a good time, at least until the end. Perhaps the filmmakers have something else in mind but I can’t help but think you could end a movie like this in a better way. Regardless, I will give it credit for being better than I expected. In fact, I guess I would say I was entertained.