Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin team up for taut thriller ‘The Call’
If you heard that the final 20 minutes of The Call is based on a flawed, almost silly premise, you have been properly informed. However, even though the finish of the film is beyond the reach of believability, somehow it didn’t spoil the suspense that preceded it.
Halle Berry stars as Jordan Turner, a 911 operator in Los Angeles. When a call comes in from a teenage girl whose house is being broken into, Jordan tries to keep her calm as help is on the way. However Jordan makes a terrible blunder and the resulting death of the teen is enough to take Jordan off the phone lines and into a support position as a 911 instructor.
Then one night she is tossed into the fray again when she takes over for a rattled newcomer on a call that is eerily similar to the one that made Jordan walk away. This time a teenage girl, Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is in the trunk of a car. From this moment the film goes into effective suspense overdrive mode, with Jordan and Casey working together to figure out a way to find Casey’s location and stop the madman who has taken her.
The suspense is terrific and when Jordan comes up with a clever idea to provide a trail to facilitate Casey’s rescue you are rooting for them all the way.
Of course the rescue is impeded by a couple of potholes, including a poor sap (played by The Sopranos' Michael Imperioli) who makes the fatal error of figuring out there is something wrong with this guy who has paint dripping out of his car.
Just when you are sure the suspense is over and the cops are closing in on the kidnapper, the movie takes a detour that is only there to provide Berry’s character with the opportunity to be the heroine and rescue Casey by herself. I partly blame the CSI TV franchise. It has been telling us for years that lab geeks get to go out and interrogate witnesses and carry guns and confront bad guys. Now we are asked to believe that a 911 operator would feel so empowered and angry about this sicko that she decides to visit a crime scene by herself unarmed and without telling anybody what she is doing.
It’s a move right out of the cheap horror movie playbook and while it is annoying, the rest of the film got us to this exciting point and my credibility meter decided to give the detour a pass.
Berry’s expressive empathy for the victim and the sense of guilt from her previous failure make her a true heroine even as we chastise her for going off by herself. As for Abigail Breslin, she — like Jodie Foster before her — is making what can be an often difficult transition from child actor to young adult seem effortless. The little girl from Little Miss Sunshine is growing up nicely with the acting chops to suggest she should have a long career.
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