Call, The

Rating:

Keep that Cell Phone Charged, People

Main Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin

Director: Brad Anderson

I do love a good thriller.  Sadly, there are few of them out there, so I jump at almost anything, just hoping that even the most mediocre premise will turn out to a hidden gem in the execution.  Such is how I came to see The Call, a Halle Berry vehicle (pun intended, though you won’t get it until later) that I would otherwise probably have avoided simply due to her generally lackluster performances.  And I was actually pleasantly surprised.

The Call centers on Jordon (Berry), a 911 operator who in the first scenes in the film has a call go very, very wrong, the result being the death of a young girl.  When we catch up to her some time later she is no longer working the floor – now she trains new operators.  When a call comes in from Casey (Abigail Breslin), a teenager who has been kidnapped and is being held in the trunk of a moving car, the operator who catches it can’t handle it, forcing Jordan back into the game.

The premise is, undeniably, a little forced.  The victim happens to have a friend’s cell phone in her pocket that the kidnapper doesn’t know about.  Jordan happens to be training on the floor right at that moment.  There just happens to be a connection with her other, disastrous case.  Coincidence abounds.  But it’s a thriller, we aren’t in it for its absolute realism (because absolute

Abigail Breslin in 2007 by Maggiejumps

Abigail Breslin in 2007

realism is way too scary in this genre).  We want some good tension and The Call delivers quite nicely.

Berry needs to form a connection with the victim, calm her and give her creative instructions to help the police locate the car.  And she has to do it with no face to face interaction – that’s tricky.  But she pulls it off, increasing the tension as we get to know Casey and Jordon faces her demons.  For once Berry gets a role that isn’t entirely dependent on her being beautiful (or uglying her up so she can “play against type”) – she’s just a regular woman with a regular job, wearing normal clothes that do not look a size too small or about to fall off.  Nice change of pace and one that Berry manages with unexpected skill.

Abigail Breslin is in that middle place between precocious child actress and grown-up, playing a teenager.  She doesn’t have all that much to do, being the hysterical victim trapped in a trunk

Halle Berry by German Marin

Halle Berry in her usual glam state

for most of the movie.  But she does a decent job of combining fear and resilience.  It isn’t some sort of break-out adult role for her, but she does well.

The best thing about The Call is the maintenance of tension throughout the movie. Director Brad Anderson adds meat to the storyline to keep the pace high and the plot twisty by developing the villain as we go, escalating the situation (and making liberal use of coincidence and excessive bad guy good luck) and keeping us guessing.  It isn’t a great thriller, the kind where all the pieces fit perfectly and the end makes you want to cry from its sheer brilliance (I’m looking at you, The Usual Suspects), but it’s a serviceable outing that should help hold the thriller devotee over until the next masterpiece comes around. 3 stars out of 5 and a recommendation for fans of the genre or Berry.

photos by German Marin and Maggiejumps

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