Until it goes off the rails the last 20 minutes or so, “The Call” is one taut, suspenseful thriller. Directed by Brad Anderson with screenplay by Richard D’Ovidio and story by Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio and Jon Bokenkamp, “The Call” has the potential to be really terrific, but is undone by being too big a fan of the great song from “Chicago,” The Cell Block Tango.”
“The Call” stars Halle Berry (with the worst Afro seen on-screen in some time) as Jordan, an emergency call center operator. Early on in the film, Jordan has the misfortune to answer a 911 home invasion call that ends badly. We are given the impression that the call’s repercussions so rattle her that six months later she is no longer an operator, but now serves as a call center instructor. While training new recruits, Jordan is asked by a panicked operator for assistance in the middle of a 911 kidnapping call. For the rest of the movie the action centers on Jordan, the kidnapped victim, Casey (Abigail Breslin), the kidnapper (Michael Eklund) and Paul (Morris Chestnut), the primary officer on the case.
“The Call” gives a very realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of an emergency phone call and how delicate the whole operation is. Berry does a great job at demonstrating fear, confidence and empathy. The odd hair-do is probably done to distract from her beauty and give her more of an every-woman look. That’s not really necessary because Berry’s performance does the talking for her. If your last remembrance of Abigail Breslin is from the 2006 “Little Miss Sunshine,” be prepared for a shock. Breslin is now 17, still petite, but otherwise all grown up. What hasn’t changed is her acting ability. She’s very good in a confining role. Eklund, who bears a strong resemblance in a sinister manner to actor John Corbett, is extremely convincing as a mentally disturbed villain.
The movie’s suspense is palpable and it’s too bad the creative team didn’t have enough fortitude to try to come up with a better ending. Although still worth seeing, the cast…and the audience deserved more.
2 ½ nuggets out of 4