Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Movie Review: The Call

The Call
Directed by: Brad Anderson.
Written by: Richard D'Ovidio.
Starring: Halle Berry (Jordan Turner), Abigail Breslin (Casey Welson), Morris Chestnut (Officer Paul Phillips), Michael Eklund (Michael Foster), David Otunga (Officer Jake Devans), Michael Imperioli (Alan Denado), Justina Machado (Rachel), José Zúñiga (Marco), Roma Maffia (Maddy), Evie Thompson (Leah Templeton).

I’ve had my eye on Brad Anderson since his 2001 film Session 9. What looked like it may be a lame Blair Witch knock-off actually turned out to be one of the scariest movies I saw last decade. Since then, he’s made one good films – The Machinist in 2004 with a remarkable performance by Christian Bale, one mediocre film – the train murder mystery Transiberian in 2008 and one bad film – Vanishing on 7th Street in 2010 – and a lot of TV work. He has never quite fulfilled the promise he showed on Session 9 – and never really had a film that broke through in any way with mainstream audiences. With The Call from earlier this year, he at least did the later.

The Call is actually quite a good movie little thriller for about an hour. It stars Halle Berry as a 911 operator who screwed up and got a young girl killed as a result. Six months later, she now just the trainer for new operators than one herself – she doesn’t trust herself not to screw up. But then something happens, and she’s forced onto the call with Casey (Abigail Breslin) – a teenage girl who has been kidnapped and put in the trunk of a car. But this couldn’t possibly be the same killer, right?

For the first hour of the movie, The Call works remarkably well – better than it really has any right to. It has not one but two confined spaces – the 911 operators’ room with Berry, and the trunk of the car with Breslin. Anderson does his best to generate tension in what amounts to little more than an hour of talking to each other – and does a very good job of it. The first hour of The Call may not be overly original – but it is creepily effective.

And then the movie goes and blows it all in the final 30 minutes – becoming yet another silly serial killer movie full of chases, improbable twists, and a killer who loses all mystery and basically becomes a pathetic loser right before our eyes. This sort of thing is done much better on TV each week in Criminal Minds or Hannibal or any number of other shows. The shows, at least, take their killers somewhat more seriously than The Call does.

None of that is really the fault of Anderson – he does an excellent job in the first hour making the movie far more tense than I thought it would be. And he gets two very good performances from Berry and especially Breslin. He does what he can with the final half hour, but he’s basically going through the motions much like the screenplay.

The Call isn’t a horrible movie, but it is one that likely won’t stay with you after the credits role. It’s a passable, but hardly memorable, little thriller.

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