The Call Review

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  • The Call film still

Score

Halle Berry plays a hotshot 911 operator in this infuriatingly contrived techno thriller.

Like some public service-based celebrity telethon, Halle Berry is planted into the bustling, beeping heart of a 911 call centre in LA where she, somewhat inevitably, is the go-to head-set hotshot. She's even been there long enough to befriend a loveable crank who — like so many — misuses this emergency line at any given opportunity.

Her life and career are thrown into turmoil when she receives a call from a shrieking teenage girl at that exact point a mad-eyed, baseball-capped prowler is attempting break into her house and then, unfortunately, break her. Berry's assiduously compartmentalised response system, which arrives in front of her eyes with swift computerised prompts, fails her on this occasion, and the girl, sadly, comes a-cropper. Then, via a prolonged daisy-chain of frankly laughable coincidences, Berry is planted into the exact same situation. She's had a rough emotional ride, but atonement is in her sights.

The concept of how much we are physically able to help another person through the remove of a telephone line is an interesting one, and Brad Anderson's cheapjack thriller highlights as many of the flaws as it does the advantages of the patented 911 emergency call system. It emphasises the particular tone and command required to be successful as a 911 operator, a complex mix of lateral thinking, roleplay and honest-to-goodness bullishness.

Yet, The Call is not a good film, playing like a bad feature-length episode of 24 more than something with the controversial depth and nuance of Craig Zobel's Compliance. Abigail Breslin is given little to do bar scream and cry as the anonymous damsel in distress, abducted from a shopping mall car park and stuffed into the boot of a car with a handily concealed mobile phone about her person. In basic logistical terms, The Call makes no sense at all. The perp has thundering '80s pop music playing in the car (just what you'd do when you had a potential murder victim in the trunk, no?), and so can't hear the escape dialogue that's happening right next to him.

The list of plot holes extends naturally with every new scene, though the drama itself takes a major swandive when communication is lost and Berry takes it upon herself to right the wrongs of the past and head out of her cubicle and on a one-woman revenge mission. All interest is lost in a flash, and the story wraps up in the most banal, textbook manner imaginable. Anderson's direction, at least, wrings texture from the bland locations on offer, though it's one of those stories which exists in a world where the police force are staffed with some of the most idiotic and incompetent officers in the known universe.

Anticipation

Halle Berry's first significant hit film in a long time.

3

Enjoyment

An interesting set-up descends into credibility-stretching banality.

2

In Retrospect

The story and set-up feel conceptually flawed from the get-go. This was never going to end well.

2
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