911 operators have a stressful and largely thankless life. They sit in small cubicles with eyes fixed to small computer screens awaiting calls from the public that range from the banal and to the harrowing, often with the very existence of the caller hinging on the quick thinking and responsiveness of the operator.
It was a split second decision with catastrophic implications that forced Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) from the operator’s chair and into the role of trainer.
Then one day one of her trainees takes a call from a terrified young girl named Casey (Abigail Breslin) that forces Jordan to confront her personal crisis of confidence in order to save a young girl’s life.
With Jordan taking the call from the ‘hive’ – the central hub for 911 operators – and Casey imprisoned against her will in a car’s trunk (the ‘boot’ for we Australians), the very real danger for The Call was it becoming stale and repetitive. There is only so much shrill panicky chatter between fictional characters that can be endured, I cite Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a prime example.
The Call sidesteps this issue by continually coming up with creative developments that stretch credibility but never break it. Even though Casey faces only one major threat, being the guy in the driver’s seat, there are several near misses and possible resolutions that heighten the tension and keep us interested. All the while Jordan must alternately placate and prod Casey to uncover vital details about her whereabouts and the potential identity of the kidnapper, all while continually ensuring that Casey (and her unlimited battery / unlimited credit phone) never ends the call.
It is actually when Jordan eventually leaves the confines of the hive that things get a little more unbelievable, leading to a couple of moments that require a heeeooooggge benefit of the doubt call. But with the first hour or so being far more compelling than I anticipated, I was willing to overlook some of the shoddiest police work on film and the slightly forced conclusion to proceedings.
The Call joins Premium Rush, Cellular, Panic Room and Phone Booth as unnecessary films that are far better than the DVD blurb suggests, and while it eventually veers too far out of its lane in the pursuit of extra credit, the build up is solid enough for me to recommend it anyway. It and its Clarice Starling aspirations.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Halle Berry’s sex symbol days ended the second the water dried after she emerged from the water in front of James Bond. Credible small budget films like The Call might just keep her relevant for a while yet.