MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Thriller/ Stars: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, Michael Imperioli, David Otunga, Justina Machado, José Zúñiga, Roma Maffia, Evie Thompson, Denise Dowse, Ella Rae Peck, Jenna Lamia, Ross Gallo, Shawnee Badger, Tara Platt/ Runtime: 94 minutes
I must say dear reader: it does prove to be quite reassuring to be aware of the fact that not only will there always be good individuals to go up against the wickedness of the world, but that there are those out there who are ok with taking risks of both a physical and an emotional nature to save others, talk with people whilst they are in crisis mode, and to give an individual their full attention time and time again through a headset on the other end of a phone line. It is also just as reassuring to note that, by and large, the aid being rendered by these individuals is genuine and not just being done so they can get paid for being able to provide a calm voice and making the right choices at the right times. Suffice it to say that whilst the career of 911 operator might just be the most under the radar day to day hero out there, it is also by the same token one of the most integral as well due to needing phenomenal organizing skill as well as providing calm and reassurance that is just as integral as wielding a firearm or getting a patient to the hospital in time. At the same time, a 911 operator must also utilize a fairly significant degree of caution in making sure their emotions are left at the door as best as they possible can, comprehending and being ok with not getting much in the way of gratitude, but also accept that ultimately how every call they take is resolved is not something they can take charge of. The reason I bring this up dear reader is because I feel this harrowing yet under the radar for the most part path of heroics was best showcased in the land of movie magic by film helmer Brad Anderson’s 2013 slice of cinematic pie The Call. A low-key yet still quite riveting and actually well-acted thrill ride where we see a highly skilled 911 operator is forced to make difficult choices, assess and reassess an ever-evolving situation that she can neither see nor fully understand, and try to maintain her composure and protocol while handling the most intense and immediate call she’s ever received. No it’s not the most novel film in the world, but what ultimately helps this film succeed on the level that it does is both how riveting it actually is as well as the fact that it’s fairly well-acted and it also feels a lot more realistic than you might be anticipating it to be.
The plot is as follows: The Call gets underway as we see a veteran 911 operator by the name of Jordan Turner as she does her best to save a young woman’s life only to tragically and horrifically fail when the suspect disconnects the call and then the news reveals the body of the victim has sadly been found. To that end, we see our heroine makes her escape from this job by making the choice to guide newbies to the career field through what they are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to not do. Soon enough however, we see that Jordan is placed back on duty when a newbie finds themselves unable to deal with a frantic and quite terrifying call. It seems that a teenager by the name of Casey Welson has been snatched at a parking lot in a shopping mall and placed in the trunk of a moving vehicle. Fortunately before she was nabbed, her friend gave her a TracFone that has managed to slip her kidnapper’s attention. We soon see that Jordan tries to talk Casey through her nightmare and aiding her as much as she can to try and get a fellow motorist’s attention or in describing the environment around her. Tragically, not only can the phone not be traced with any degree of ease, but the kidnapper also is able to stay a step ahead even in the face of a collection of obstacles cropping up. Thus as things unfold, the truth begins to get clearer and clearer, but Casey and her kidnapper seem to be getting closer and closer to vanishing completely, it’ll be up to our heroine to figure everything out and do what she can to save Casey.
Now although this slice of cinematic pie does manage to do quite a bit more positive than negative, I still feel you should know that the negative in this film does manage to leave quite the acid reflux-bitter taste in your mouth following 75% of an incredibly solid film. When this slice of cinematic pie is operating at its peak however, it is able to conjure up a potency that is wonderfully consistent. Indeed operating as quite the thrilling roller coaster, we see that the tension is able to stay in place even if there’s not a lot of doubt in regards to how these characters are going to wind up by film’s end. Indeed this slice of cinematic works on the level that it does because it is thankfully not an extremely complicated and bleak film with a mess of thematic concepts at play, but instead a fairly to the point narrative that makes it applaud the force of good and jeer at the force of evil. Suffice it to say there is a brutality to this film not in terms of style, but most assuredly in terms of concept and in how this film contrasts good and evil with an innocent person stuck firmly in the center of their conflict. At the same time, this slice of cinematic pie might never downplay things, but it also doesn’t ever go too far in making the audience feel how it wants them to feel. Rather, the emotion is actually permitted to flow with zero hesitation in regards to seeing justice pursued and the outcome in favor of righteousness. Suffice it to say that film helmer Brad Anderson does a wonderful job at putting the audience in Jordan’s perspective and shepherds them to feeling just as much terror and worry all whilst following Casey through her truly nightmarish situation. Suffice it to say that this is fairly well made for a slice of cinematic pie that could have just made the choice to go through the notions. With that being said, I can confidently say that the conclusion to this film is both fairly divisive and a bit of a let-down. Not just because it throws the genuine emotional connection we have come to form with these characters on the cinematic bonfire, but also because it really does seem to stab us in the back by portraying these characters in an entirely different point of view than they had been for the rest of the film.
Now another key area where this slice of cinematic pie is able to succeed fairly respectably is in its talent for showing us the reality of just what it is like to operate in that anxiety and chaos-stricken world that being a phone operator for 911. Yes it may have been dramatized for creative purposes, but even with that in mind there is no denying that this film still makes this world seem realistic as well as how wonderfully and brilliantly set up the movie constructs the franticness of responding to a call for help, the prerequisite to think fairly quickly, and the necessity to keep your cool even in the face of being a witness to a truly horrific tragedy are part and parcel for this job. It also doesn’t hurt that the cast in this also give us performances that are good, but also (by and large) fairly believable. Indeed in the lead role of Jordan, we get wonderful work from Halle Berry. Indeed Berry does a terrific job at giving us a character who may be a veteran at her job, but who still is guilty of not adhering to the most important requirement to doing her job right which is that she is a person who makes her set of emotions way too visible. At the same time though, this display of emotion also help her in a pair of distinct ways in that not only do they give her the resolve to saving Casey no matter what, but also in the sculpting of the fairly close emotional bond that begins to mold between this pair of women the longer Berry stays on the phone and the more nightmarish Casey’s ordeal turns into. At the same time, it’s also worth pointing out that this set of emotions also aid the viewer in comprehending why Jordan makes the choices she makes at certain points in the film even if each and every viewer’s response and feelings about said choices will most likely be varied. We also get a wonderful performance from Breslin who manages to give a top-flight performance courtesy of both her reactions to the truly nightmarish situation she is a victim of, but also in expressing her agony, despair, and increasing horror that aid in raising the stakes, further bringing out your own emotions to the situation, and also further developing the bond she starts to develop with Jordan. We also get wonderful work from Morris Chestnut as Berry’s character’s loving and devoted boyfriend, Michael Eklund who is truly chilling and sinister as the main antagonist, and tequila ad model (oh and star of The Sopranos and a wonderful co-starring performance in 1990’s GoodFellas) Michael Imperioli is actually not half bad in a supporting turn here as a Good Samaritan whose attempts to help go horrifyingly wrong.
All in all I’m not gonna lie to you dear reader: The Call is most assuredly not the most novel film on the planet and in fact you should be able to figure out, by and large, a lot of the story beats in this one with the exception perhaps for the curve this movie chooses to deploy at the very end. Yet even when taking that into account, there is no denying that this slice of cinematic pie operates on fairly potent pathos as well as its simplistic yet quite effective squaring off of a good person against someone who is fairly sinister. Indeed this slice of cinematic pie manages to conjure up an atmosphere that is downright tense whilst also functioning as a very polished and intelligently assembled film that is aided quite significantly by some riveting work from the cast. Thus no this film is by no means an Oscar contender by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely do try to give it a view since this is one thriller that is worth every penny of the 5 dollars plus tax you most likely paid for this movie. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Call “2013” a solid 3 out of 5.