out of Five
Running time: 94
Smartly directed and sharply written, The Call is a suspenseful and engaging thriller with superb performances from Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin, though it stumbles a little in the final act.
What's it all about?
Directed by Brad Anderson, The Call stars Halle Berry as Jordan Turner, an L.A. emergency line operator who's traumatised when she makes a mistake that leads to a caller's death at the hands of a serial killer. Six months later, Jordan has removed herself from emergency line duty and is helping out with the training program, but during a demonstration she ends up taking a call from panicked teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), who's been abducted by a serial killer (Michael Eklund) and is trapped in the boot of his moving car.
When she works out that the killer is the same man she failed to stop before, Jordan becomes desperate to save Casey and uses everything she can think of to try and rescue her, while simultaneously trying to pinpoint her position so her cop boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) can track her down. However, the killer soon realises that his prisoner has somehow alerted the authorities and he takes desperate measures to cover his tracks.
Halle Berry is excellent, delivering a committed and tightly wound performance that lets you see exactly what's at stake for Jordan. You constantly fear for her mental state if the unthinkable were to happen to Casey and this gives the film an extra level of tension while also going some way to excuse her less than professional behaviour in the third act. Abigail Breslin is equally good as Casey, maintaining a convincing level of terror without going over the top and doing some quality confined-space acting in The Call that's on a par with the work of Ryan Reynolds in Buried (coffin) and Stephen Dorff in Brake (trunk of a car).
In addition, Michael Eklund is suitably scary as the killer, largely because he's clearly unhinged (the film flirts with giving him a borderline sympathetic backstory) and therefore unpredictable, though Chestnut is more or less superfluous, since his relationship with Jordan has no impact on the film whatsoever. On top of that, Anderson has a great sense of pace and keeps things moving at a decent speed throughout while expertly building tension and chucking in some effective rug-pulls.
For the most part, Richard D'Ovidio's script has a lot of fun with The Call’s engaging set-up, particularly when it comes to Jordan thinking on her feet and coming up with ways for Casey to let them know where the car is. However, the final act both stretches credulity and smacks of an ending rewritten to please a test audience; it's also slightly grislier, in terms of the violence, than strictly necessary for this type of thing and almost tips over into horror territory.
The Call is an enjoyable thriller with a nice line in suspense and a pair of superb performances from its two leads. Recommended.