In thousands of movies, TV, plays, animes, comics, there are always characters calling 911 – hell, you may have even done it yourself once. But do we ever think about the people taking that call, dispatching those police, having to hear the screams of murder victims, totally powerless to do anything? Of course not – they might as well be a robot for all we know. But this film takes a look at just that – does it succeed? Does it create a nail-biting thriller that put you on the edge of seat or does it play out as too weird to be believed?
Let’s take a look at The Call.
The film’s basic plot is about Jordan (Halle Berry), a 911 operator, is called by a young woman whose has has been broken into, and due to a mistake by Berry, is kidnapped and later found dead. Six month later, another young woman named Casey (Abigail Breslin) calls from a trunk of a car, and Berry thrown back into the situation once more. We find out more about the psychotic killer Michael, and his journey to abduct Breslin, and ultimately his defeat. The plot really doesn’t have much more too it – its about a serial killer who kidnaps a teenager and how a 911 operator helps her through. The entire third act slips into bullshit terrirtory but I will get to that in a minute.
The film, which is actually a project of WWE studios (yes, the wrestling people, who knew?) does what it was intended to do – fill you with suspense. The majority of the movie is one large car chase, trying to save Casey before she gets taken to the killer’s murder-hole (it is in fact a hole in the ground where he kills people, so that is the correct terminology). You do genuinely do want to see these two people succeed, and that helps to grow the suspense. Not to mention the entire film is filled with the cliche of everytime Casey has a chance to escape, something goes wrong and she ends up back in the trunk. But at least she does attempt to fight back rather than simply laying like a deep fish in the trunk. We want Jordan to succeed because she got a girl killed last time, and now has to try and trust herself enough to see Casey through this crisis without inadvertently causing her death.
The cinematography and design are pretty strong, if only because there are many locales, and the majority of them are outside on the streets of Los Angeles. Personally, for me, neither set is good nor bad, but rather barely noticeable which is really the purpose of set design. The same goes for cinematography, it really is neither good nor bad, but works for the story it’s telling. Sometimes it looks a little like they’re shooting an episode of Cops but considering this film is mostly about trying to find a missing car, its understandable.
The worst character, and one of the biggest deterrents of the film, would probably be Michael, the serial killer. While as a character he’s compelling, there are some aspects of his story and actions that make little sense. For one, the relationship between him and his sister (who died of cancer) is not exactly specified. It’s not clear if Michael infatuation was unrequited, or if he and his sister were having sex, or if in fact Michael developed it later in life. After all, we don’t know how long he’s been killing women, or if it was her death or other circumstances which set it off. Additionally, he makes this creepy, slack-jawed face whenever he’s thinking hard about something, or is being particularly evil. However, it’s not so much threatening or creepy as it is stupid. Do people really look like that? I don’t psychosis works that way.
Let’s talk about the ending from a “female empowerment” perspective. So, taking a look at this ending is sort obnoxious. For those of you who saw the film, the ending is basically revenge-fulfillment, where the two women overpower, and (more or less) kill Michael. Thus, we should feel good – two weaker characters (both women) are able to take down the crazy bastard who has killed before and would kill again. Girl power triumphed. But that’s not exactly the case. I will tell you that trauma victims will want to get away from their captors or abusers as fast as they can – no one in their right mind would go BACK INTO THE MURDER HOLE TO POSSIBLY BE OVERPOWERED AGAIN. Two, it doesn’t fit with their respective characters, neither have shown violent tendencies up until this point. Third, the ending comes off as some slocky “female empowerment revenge fulfillment” but that makes it seem like the movie was about two women against an evil man. The fact is you could have reversed the sexes on all the characters and very little would have had to have been changed. These women are not represented as women who happen to be in this position, they were just people in this position. They exhibit resourcefulness, strength, cunning, compassion, perseverance, and fortitude, until the movie basically decides to scream “GIRL POWER” in our faces. No movie, that is not how you write good female characters – you were on the right track and then you fucked it up. I’m guessing this was due to a more realistic ending testing badly, but come on, you could have done better.
In the end, The Call does it’s job – keep you entertained for a solid two hours, but really, that’s all it does. There’s nothing novel about the story, its your typical thriller about serial killers kidnap young women and the elaborate attempts to find her. I originally planned to give this film a higher rating but then I realized I don’t actually recommend seeing this film. It’s a nice, neat little time waste, but I’m not sure it’s worth the outrageous ticket price. I’d just wait until it settles comfortably in the roster of your favorite basic cable channels.
– Suspenseful and genuinely intriguing.
– Strong acting.
– Strong plot, up until the third act.
– The ending.
– Lack of novelty in the plot.
– Botched characterization, especially for Michael.