Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is an experienced 911 emergency call centre operator but when she makes an error of judgment and a call ends badly, Jordan is rattled and unsure if she can continue - and transfers to the training unit. When teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is abducted and stuck in the trunk of a car and calls 911, Jordan is the one on the spot and called upon to use all of her experience, insights and quick thinking to help Casey escape. Not just to save Casey, but to make sure the dangerous abductor (Michael Eklund) is brought to justice.
Review by Louise Keller:
Stay detached and never make promises you cannot keep are the 911 operator golden rules that Halle Berry's Jordan is unable to keep in this tense and gripping nail-biter that involves us in the moment-by-moment revelations of a terrifying abduction case. Berry, vulnerability painted on her beautiful expressive face, is at her best in the role of Jordan, the proficient operator fighting to reclaim her own life, as well as that of Casey (Abigail Breslin), who spends most of the film squashed in a car boot and other uncomfortable positions. Breslin has come a long way since Little Miss Sunshine and ticks all the boxes as the teenager with fighting spirit.
In the opening scenes, the high stress levels emanating from the 911 emergency centre are well established with overlapping aural snapshots from a myriad of incoming phone conversations that describe the nature of the distress calls received. With high-tech equipment that instantly locates the caller from monitored GPS signals, the importance of keeping the caller connected is paramount, as Jordan discovers in a critical call that ends badly: the difference between life and death. Jordan's re-evaluation of her life follows.
Six months passes before we catch up with Jordan in her new role of training officer. There is a brief scene in which we meet Casey, an ordinary teenager who is catching up with a friend at a shopping mall. The ease with which the man in the carpark (Michael Eklund) abducts her is terrifyingly credible. Bundled into the boot, with her mobile phone smashed is how the ordeal begins. But then there are two factors that come into play - both by chance. The first is how she gets to call 911; the second is how Jordan becomes her connection to the outside world.
Director Brad Anderson does a fine job of building tension with tight close-ups, an effective soundscape and a bundle of scares that made me literally jump in my seat. For the main part, Richard D'Ovidio's script is well constructed, if formulaic, with good character establishment and narrative flow. The story progresses naturally using what is readily available, like the cans of paint in the car's boot and the involvement of two well meaning strangers that alters the course of events. The grisly aspects of the plotline are revealed slowly as is the depiction of the twisted abductor's profile and the revelations that unfold. Eklund develops the aspects of evil, creepiness and depravity with mastery.
There are two script decisions that are fuel for comment and criticism - namely two U-turns in genre, when the film morphs from thriller to detective genre and finally to one with a vigilante slant. My main reservation lies in the latter which takes the film into a different realm and one that does not entirely satisfy - in my book, at any rate.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Hi, I'd like to order an abduction thriller set around the 911 emergency call centre in Los Angeles. Sure, would you like a psycho with that? Ah yes, and while we're at it can I upsize to the hero being ...er, a heroine ... and black. Done, and you get a cute inter-office romance with that, black of course, plus, the psycho has a faint touch of ...um...Psycho, about him. Perfect - did I mention the abductee should be a teenage girl?
With all these ingredients on hand, the screenplay starts off with the establishment of the 911 centre, which is engaging and informative (assuming it's authentic). Jordan (Halle Berry, outstanding) is a proficient operator, but one tiny slip proves deadly for the young female caller trapped in her house by a stalker. Jordan is shaken and takes off the headphones, moving into the training area, away from the stressful, risky front line. But fate won't have any of that and six months later puts her on the spot when another young female, Casey (Abigail Breslin), calls in from the boot of a car in which she has been abducted by a determined white male, mid 30, wearing sunglasses. That's all she can tell Jordan ...
Act 2 takes off as the tense hunt for the abducted girl gets under way, limited by the fact that Casey's own phone has been smashed, and the phone she has in her back pocket, she picked up after a shopping mall soft drink with a friend; it's a prepaid, with no GPS ... Casey is off the grid. Alone in the boot. With a madman at the wheel, taking her somewhere. The tension is well maintained, although I reached my saturation point with the shrill hysterical-teenage-girl routine after about 20 minutes (it went on for another 10 or so). With some resourceful thinking, Jordan gets Casey to mark the car in which she is hidden, and the cops even track down the man's identity - Michael Foster (Michael Eklund, excellently loathsome) - if not his personality.
The recipe-driven screenplay is too obviously a construct to exact maximum leverage from the basic concept, and when the concept runs out of juice, the screenplay take a sharp left turn to introduce the kidnapper as not just a villain but a psycho. This seems an acceptable element, until the filmmakers feel the need to keep upping this ante out of credibility reach. They write themselves into a moral corner as they head towards the inevitable showdown. What the very sick Michael Foster needs is treatment, not revenge.
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CALL, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, Michael Imperioli, Justina Machado, Jose Auniga, Roma Maffia, Denise Dowse, Ella Rae Peck
PRODUCER: Bradley Gallo, Jeffrey Graup, Michael A. Helfant, Michael Luisi
DIRECTOR: Brad Anderson
SCRIPT: Richard D'Ovidio
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Yatsko
EDITOR: Avi Youabian
MUSIC: John Debney
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Franco-Giacomo Carbone
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 16, 2013
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.