The CallTuesday 17 Sep 2013
Director: Brad Anderson
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund, Morris Chestnut, Michael Imperioli
Duration: 94 minutes
As with food so with films - there are times when you want the most nourishing money can buy, while at others a big lump of junk is the only thing that will do.
If you've a hankering for the latter, and have no hang-ups about slumming it, then The Call could be the movie for you. It's another of those race-against-time thrillers that becomes progressively sillier as the clock winds down, but that didn't stop it from almost quadrupling its money ($13m budget, $51m gross) in the US. Couples, geeks and the easily pleased this side of the Atlantic should add a fair whack to that tally.
Berry plays Jordan Turner, a veteran emergency call operator in Los Angeles who appears to be one of the most in-control 911 professionals you could possibly hope to talk to - until her life comes crumbling down because of what she hears in her headset.
Fast-forward six months and a heavily-medicating, PTSD-suffering Jordan has been reassigned from taking calls to teaching newbies, warning them about the dangers of becoming emotionally involved and dodging questions about why she's no longer dealing with the public.
Call (sorry) it fate or coincidence, but Jordan's shot at redemption comes during a nerve centre walk-through with the latest recruits: an operator panics, on impulse Jordan takes over and finds a hysterical teenager (Breslin) on the other end of the line.
With its fast edits, style-heavy sequences and stock characters, The Call plays like an extended episode of a weeknight procedural, but with more tension, malice and violence than a mainstream series would allow. Director Anderson, who gave us the Christian Bale-starring The Machinist, shows once again that he's no slouch at cranking up the claustrophobia, with the intimacy and intensity of the phone sequences - not the easiest thing to get right for directors or actors - particularly effective.
Both Berry and Breslin are decent in their respective roles but the real star here proves to be Eklund as the villain who brings the two women together. A wise casting because we haven't seen him in much, Eklund manages to show what a good actor he is amidst the clichés and while the ending is even more doolally than the man he's playing, there's consolation here in knowing that we will see him as more interesting characters than this one.
Still, at least the script didn't have him living with his Ma.