Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Call (2013): Is It A Wrong Number??

I don't know about you, but when I see a film like The Call advertised on television, I just kind of sigh and say to myself "oh, it's another one of those films".  Those by-the-numbers thrillers that are just a notch above (and not always, mind you) a decent episode of Criminal Minds.  But due to the fact that I have enjoyed a few other of director Brad Anderson's films (most notably Session 9, and to a lesser degree The Machinist), I thought I would give it a go.

Surprisingly, the film kept me interested for most of its 94 minute running time.  While it does mimic 2004's Cellular in many ways, it is just different enough not to claim foul.

Jordan (Halle Berry, who is looking as good as ever and never freaking ages!) is a 9-1-1 operator at "the hive", the central operating and dispatching area of the LAPD.

One evening she gets a call from Leah, a young teen in distress who claims a man is breaking into her home.  Using her seasoned experience in the field, Jordan seemingly helps the girl by telling her to open her bedroom window to make it look like she escaped while instead hiding under the bed.

All goes according to plan until the phone accidentally disconnects.  In a moment of anxiety, Jordan redials the number, which backfires on her enormously when the assailant hears Leah's phone ring under the bed. The man quickly finds his victim and subdues her, leaving Jordan to plead for the Leah's life over the phone, begging him not to hurt her.  The man's voice over the phone says simply: "It's already done."  He hangs up, leaving Jordan to wallow in her guilt.  She is further tormented by her mistake when Leah turns up dead, the victim of a horrific murder.

Six months later Jordan has moved from operator to trainer, in all likelihood because she couldn't handle the pressure any more and is still distraught over her error leading to Leah's gruesome demise.

As she instructs a new group of recruits to the hive, a call comes in from a girl who has been kidnapped from a mall and is being held in the trunk of a moving vehicle.  The operator talking her down is young and inexperienced, unable to collect her thoughts enough to help. It is then when Jordan takes over, and the meat of the storyline comes to fruition.

This young girl, Casey (Abigail Breslin), is lucky enough to have a trac phone.  She was hanging with a friend at the mall and the friend had been using the phone because it is untraceable and she was hiding a relationship with a boy from her mother.  The girl hurries off, leaving the phone in Casey's possession.  (Which naturally is one of those "of course" moments in a film that we all dread. How convenient!) Casey's kidnapper disposes of Casey's iPhone in two seconds, not realizing the other phone is in her pocket.

Jordan is now faced with not only calming the teen down, but with attempting to gather information that will aid in her rescue from the perilous situation at hand. As Jordan learns information about the antagonist, we do too. And there is a collective gasp when we all realize it is the same kidnapper that took Leah from her home a half dozen months ago.  Now the hunt is on for a depraved serial killer with his own sick agenda. 
Once Jordan gets over the initial shock that they are dealing with the same perpetrator, her mind set is focused on one thing: not losing another life to this psychotic bastard.

The Call is a tense thriller, there's no denying it.  Each time you think Casey is doomed, Jordan pulls a rabbit out of the hat or Casey uses her own meritable skills to get through. Much of the film's running time has Casey in the trunk using whatever is at her disposal to try to attract attention to the trunk of the car, some of which are fairly decent ideas.  We also get a little background on the killer, as the LAPD inches closer to catching him. With each new clue, they get to know more about the terribly disturbed man and his motives for his actions.

Where the film hits a brick wall is the last fifteen minutes or so.  The cops narrow the search to a farmhouse once owned by the killer's family, but are flustered to find the home empty and they leave.  Not to be deterred, Jordan takes it upon herself to salvage the info acquired and make her way to the same property.

In my books, this is a massive fail.  I know it is "just a movie" and we are supposed to suspend our disbelief, but really?  What 9-1-1 operator do you know that would risk life and limb for a voice on the phone, in particular after the cops' lead fell through?  Yeah, well....it's only a movie.

I don't want to give anything else away, so suffice it to say the end of the film certainly reminds one of a little film starring Anthony Hopkins as a serial killer... you know the one? 

It's said that this film was originally entitled The Hive, and that it was thought to be a possible television series.  I can absolutely see that concept, I really can.  And I don't even think it's too bad of an idea.
  But would it just fall into the same category as every other dark police procedural?  What would help it stand above?  I can't answer that either, hence that is probably where thoughts of a series abruptly ended.

But in the end, The Call was pretty effective, with convincing acting all around and enough blood shed to keep your average horror fan entertained.  If you can get past some of the truly implausible script blunders, you're in for a moderately exciting hour and a half. 
you get Halle Berry, right?


Emily said...

What's really crazy? This is produced by WWE films. I haven't seen it, but did you spot any wrestling connection?

I'm mixed on Brad Anderson. Loved his early stuff, but Vanishing on 7th St. made me physically angry. Really, REALLY angry.

Christine Hadden said...

Whhhaaaat? WWE? No kidding?
No, I can't say that I spotted any wrestling connection, but then again I don't watch any wrestling so I may have missed something!

And yeah, I saw Vanishing on 7th St. as well - it was bloody awful. What was THAT all about?
But I love Session 9 with my whole heart...