johnlink ranks THE CALL (2013)

Generic suspense is better than no suspense at all. Which is why I decided to watch this film, even though I suspected it may be uniquely generic (and don’t you dare call me an oxymoron). I mean, that bland title? Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin in a WWE Films produced movie about a 911 operator? That sounds like it belongs in the $2 bin of a Black Friday sale to me! But, thing is… this turned out to be better than average. It has some flaws, but it’s not so bad. How is that possible? You’ll just have to read on to find out.

What I just did there? That’s called suspense!


I watched THE CALL (2013) on 11.25.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is a 911 operator who is pretty darn good at her job. We get to see an exposition filled montage of her dealing with emergencies, wackos, and people who don’t know what 911 is for. She handles it all beautifully. Then she gets a call from a girl being abducted, and it goes south. She quits. Becomes a teacher. Through an extraordinary set of coincidences, she ends up on a 911 call of another girl, Casey (Abigail Breslin) being abducted by the same guy.

The strengths of THE CALL, and there is a surprisingly decent list, are all based in character and the building of suspense. Jordan is a solid leading lady, even if her location as a 911 operator makes her less than mobile. Casey is a likable victim who we really want to see safe at home. The villain, Michael Foster (Michael Eklund) starts off as your generic baddie and slowly morphs into a quietly excellent movie villain. Eklund plays Foster as a guy who is smooth at first, but who gets increasingly violent and twitchy as roadblocks are tossed in his way. Eklund, from looking at his IMDB page, is a veteran of generic WWE Films (like SEE NO EVIL 2 and MARINE 3), but his performance here is better than that pedigree suggests.

The suspense builds nicely as well. The scenarios often go awry, like a paint-spilling plan that goes poorly for a nice nearby guy, but they are creative. Even if the script seems to be compiled in a transparently formulaic way, the ideas constructed within that formula mostly work. A couple of them, like squeezing through a backseat, feel forced. But none of them move into absurdism, nor do they derail the suspense.

The final act isn’t quite as good as the build. When everyone gets to their final destinations, it does become a little cliche. Eklund fights this by making his killer be wonderfully creepy and scary. But the heroic end of it feels all too coincidental and easy. If this were an extended TV show, a TRUE DETECTIVE for example, more build could be allowed. Here, it all feels as if it needs to be resolved in a neat little box in 90 minutes, so we sure as hell better get all of our main players in a room together, reality be damned.

The one flaw that really hurts this movie is the last scene of the film. It has all kinds of moral implications for the leads, and seems to work against what we learn about these people for the previous 88 minutes. It is the first and only time it feels as though a studio has stepped into a script to make a change (well, maybe also the fact that once Abigail Breslin ends up in her bra, Halle Berry never bothers to offer her a coat). The finale feels like it is of a different thing. Like it wants to make for the possibility of a sequel. It really sucks.

But for those issues, this is a highly watchable film. The cinematography is unique, even if it often feels like the GoPro stuff feels out of place. This is a movie which does not just rest on the Halle Berry name and call it a day. It tries. It may not always be great, it may not be a movie you need to see more than once, but there have been plenty worse attempts in the last decade of putting together an R Rated suspense film.




FINAL SCORE: 6.5 out of 10



~ by johnlink00 on November 26, 2014.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks THE CALL (2013)”

  1. Surprisingly fun and tense. Until it isn’t, and then it just gets silly. Good review John.

    • Totally agree. It sort of ends with the quality you expect the whole movie to have going in. Too bad they couldn’t have exceeded expectations throughout.

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