by Katie Gile
A child’s terrified shriek from the other end of a phone line may figure in the worst nightmare of many, but it’s all in a heroic day’s work for Jordan Turner, a sharp and collected Los Angeles 911 dispatcher. As queen bee in the “Hive” of dispatchers, Jordan coolly puts out figurative fires without batting an eye, until she makes a simple mistake that costs a young girl her life. Flash to six months later, Jordan is frazzled. Popping anxiety meds, she works as the recruit trainer, staying clear of the mania herself. It’s when she steps in for a scattered coworker that Jordan confronts her former demons to save the life of another young girl.
“The Call” cleverly compiles familiar horror concepts and characters for a movie that’s nothing if not pulse-pounding. Director Brad Anderson sees to it that the action comes out swinging. We arrive in time for a quick ‘n’ dirty intro to the job of a Los Angeles 911 dispatcher. With impressive grace, Anderson shows us all we need to know throughout the movie without hitting us over the head with it.
Screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio delivers a sharp, clever script. Its technological awareness, quick wit and eye for action make for a gripping guilty pleasure. While there are some cheap answers to intriguing beginnings, like the abductor/killer’s motives and history, it doesn’t detract from the movie’s overall appeal. In fact, were it not for some of these less-than-artistic choices, “The Call” would be less “guilty” and more “pleasure.” As it stands, the ending proves Jordan’s boss Maddy (Roma Maffia) wrong when she said that 911 dispatchers never get closure.
Halle Berry stars as Jordan Turner, bringing her Oscar chops out to play. Berry’s Turner is strong and feisty, even when broken. Her vulnerability in Turner’s moments of fear was incredibly compelling, inviting us all in to experience with her.
Abigail Breslin makes a move toward older roles with her turn as Casey Welson, the abductee. Breslin is fearless, especially in Welson’s terrified moments. Even in the most grotesque and skin-crawling circumstances, Breslin’s Welson is a quietly strong contender and owns the screen.
Playing one of the most silent and most pivotal roles in the film is Michael Eklund as Michael Foster. His character, who’s written with touches of famous baddies like Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates, is a frightening villain. Eklund’s disarming stillness and slack-jaw expression create an alien, whose dramatic strength derives from unknown motives and methods. Eklund seems to do his best to create moments out of nothing and despite overdoing the “stare and slink” technique, he is very, very scary.
Rounding out the supporting cast are Roma Maffia, Morris Chestnut, David Otunga, Michael Imperioli and Jose Zuniga, all of whom do an excellent job in creating this stressful, critical world they work in.
Its action, clever sourcing and references, swift pace and early intrigue make “The Call” a lot of fun to watch, if nothing else. It’s not a ground-breaking film, but creates a world we’re enthralled with for a few hours. Though “The Call” is a guilty pleasure at best, it’s a pleasure nonetheless.
THE CALL movie review
by Katie Gile