The Call (2013)
(15) Running time: 94 minutes
Director: Brad Anderson
Writers: Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio, Jon Bokenkamp
Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Brad Anderson is the director of one of my favourite horror films of the noughties, the superb and very creepy Session 9. Having directed the excellent The Machinist and Transsiberian, Anderson has been one of my favourite directors for some time. However, his last feature length film, Vanishing on 7th Street, was ambitious but rather dull, and since then he has been working a lot in TV, directing episodes of Fringe, Boardwalk Empire, The Killing and Person of Interest. The Call see’s his big return to feature films after three years out, and naturally I was very excited to see him back.
The Call did not disappoint, and while I wasn’t expecting great things from the film, I wasn’t expecting it to be bad either. What I got was an extremely satisfying, and at times very dark thriller that uses cast, script, location and violence for maximum impact, and the films score has a heavy hand in building up intense mood and atmosphere. Anderson masterfully paces the film that never lets up its relentless onslaught of thrills and scares, and the films simplicity is actually what makes it so rewarding.
Like those classic straight to video thrillers from the 90’s, The Call isn’t asking too much from the viewer. In fact, all you are asked to do is sit back and enjoy the ride, and enjoy it you will.
I have to admit that I am not exactly Halle Berry’s biggest fan, but she really impressed me here as 911 call operator Jordan Turner. Berry brings charisma, emotion and passion to her role, showing on screen just how difficult the job really is. Dealing with suicides, house break-ins and even lost pets and lonely strangers who just want to talk, Turner has heard it all. Early on in the film she is involved with a violent house break-in where she does her best to comfort the teenage girl on the other end of the phone. With a mysterious killer prowling around the girls house, Turner is her main point of call to comfort her and promise everything will be ok. The scene is incredibly tense, and things go wrong, leaving Turner a broken woman.
Months later Turner is now training rather than dealing with the calls, but a kidnap case draws her back in to dealing with a scared teenage girl who has been drugged and put in the boot of a violent man’s car. Abigail Breslin shines as Casey Welson, the teenage girl who has been kidnapped, and when she is scared and panicking in the boot of the man’s car, you are right there with her. Breslin does a wonderful job portraying a terrified girl, and Berry is on top form as the 911 operator doing her best to talk her through the tense situation. Morris Chestnut also delivers a realistic and grounded performance as Turner’s boyfriend Officer Paul Phillips. Michael Eklund delivers a chilling performance as the films killer, and Anderson has him doing all sorts of shocking things to get viewers on the edge of their seats.
Watching The Call, I was worried the idea of a girl in the back of a kidnappers car would quickly lose steam, but the perfect running time and Anderson’s keen eye for creating tension with careful close-ups, overhead shots and frantic camera movements all serve the escalating story well. You will be gripped as Anderson conjures up moment after moment of nail biting tension, and thankfully the film never falls into the trap of clichéd or predictable. That’s the beauty of The Call, it delivers unexpected moments, or simply pushes events to places most directors wouldn’t be brave enough to go. Eklund especially will leave you feeling rather unsettled.
I was very impressed with this reliable thriller, and while the story doesn’t exactly have a lot to offer in terms of todays necessary twists and turns and morals, Anderson directs the most basic of set-ups and delivers a thriller head and shoulders above the majority of genre films you are likely to see this year. Superbly acted, directed and scripted, The Call is a superior thriller that is guaranteed to please fans of this sort of film. Fans of Anderson the director will be pleased to know that he is back on top form.