The Call isn’t an unpredictable suspense-thriller but thanks to the performances by Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin, and some slick direction by Brad Anderson, it’s an entertaining and captivating thriller from beginning to end even if the finale felt out of place.
Sony | R – 94 min. – $40.99 | June 25, 2013
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Writer(s): Richard D’Ovidio & Nicole D’Ovidio & Jon Bokenkamp (story), Richard D’Ovidio (screenplay)
Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, Michael Imperioli
Theatrical Release Date: March 15, 2013
Features: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, UltraViolet DC
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Danish, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish
Disc Size: 31.2 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
“It’s already done.”
When the end credits started rolling following The Call, that old adage of never judging a book by its cover came to mind. The trailers for this thriller made it looked like the same schlock I’ve seen numerous times; heck, even the poster and Blu-ray cover wasn’t exactly enticing. However, when it was over, I was fairly impressed. No doubt a flawed, The Call still managed to peek and keep my interest.
Jordan Turner (HALLE BERRY) is a 911 operator; she’s efficient and good at her job. Jordan is well liked by her co-workers, popular by a drunken caller and is dating attractive L.A.P.D. Officer Paul Phillips (MORRIS CHESTNUT). When the film opens, Jordan takes a call from a panicked young woman that someone is trying to break in to her home. Calm and collected, Jordan gives her instructions to find a room to hold up in as the woman’s only escape is where the intruder is. The intruder gains entry, eventually kidnapping the girl who ends up found brutally murdered the following day. Jordan blames herself, has a panic attack and is no longer able to work as an operator.
Fast forward six months we find Jordan teaching others to be a 911 operator and, just so it happens, another panicked 911 call comes in at her old station. The teenage girl, Casey Welson (ABIGAIL BRESLIN), has been abducted at a mall parking garage and thrown inside the trunk of a car. Unfortunately she’s calling from a TracFone which, in an earlier scene, she got from her “promiscuous” best friend who left it behind and cannot be traced (her own phone broke during the kidnapping). The operator trying to help gets flustered so Jordan steps into action trying to calm Casey down and get as many clues to her whereabouts.
Casey mightily attempts to get the attention from other drivers by kicking out a taillight, waving her arm outside at which point a driver notices and calls 911 but is soon discovered by the abductor (MICHAEL EKLUND) who makes a quick exit. She next uses paint in the trunk and pours it out in the attempts to leave a trail for police who are hot on the chase but as luck would have it, a concerned driver (MICHAEL IMPERELI in a pointless, highly billed, cameo) lets our abductor know and pulls to a secluded place to take care of the situation. Of course, our driver-with-no-name stops to check and see if things are alright. Yeah, it’s one of more laughable moments but still provides time for Eklund to really shine in his demented-ness.
Despite the technology available, and nearly every unit in Los Angeles on the hunt, Jordan can only find Casey via pings to the closest towers. Time is running out and our abductor is getting more and more desperate and by the end we do learn his motivation which is something I swear I saw on an episode of “Criminal Minds”. Still, it’s dark and effective.
The Call succeeds squarely on the shoulders of its stars, Halle Berry and, in particular, Abigail Breslin, the latter of whom gets the toughest assignment spending a majority of the movie in a trunk, screaming bloody murder and only acting against a voice over the phone (or while filming, off-screen). It’s really a thankless role but she pulls through quite nicely and shows some real spunk that we got to know in her breakout role in Little Miss Sunshine.
I’ll give credit where credit is due: Halle Berry tackles what is probably a slim character with fleeting moments of development, and superficial one’s at that, but comes out really well. The story, as slim as it is, hinges mostly on her and the determination she has to find this girl and redeem herself from the prior incident which, if hadn’t seen the trailers, were obviously interrelated and revealed towards the end of the second act. Not a big spoiler but it is one of those big coincidences we see in Hollywood movies.
Directed by Brad Anderson, who is mainly known for his work on television shows like “Fringe”, “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Wire”, does an admirable job helming a script that could have easily been direct-to-video material. Despite predictable situations, though, Anderson manages to provide solid suspense and keeping my attention until the very end.
Speaking of the end… that’s where the movie falls apart, taking it from a very good suspense-thriller into just a pretty good one. Without divulging too much, we get a finale which feels out of place, like a Saw rip-off and one which shows the main characters are self centered. But this leads me to believe it was less character driven and more about the writer trying to surprise the audience.
But despite my issues with the ending, The Call is still a well oiled thriller with solid performances from its two leads and a premise that is at least fresh showing the stress and strain that the 911 operators must deal with on a daily basis.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.75/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover. Inside are the standard DVD Copy and a code for the UltraViolet Digital Copy.
Filmmakers & Cast Commentary – Recorded from different parts of the country, but at the same time, this track includes a fair number of participants: Director Brad Anderson, Stars Halle Berry & Abigail Breslin, Producers Michael Helfant, Bradley Gallo & Robert Stein, and Writer Richard D’Ovidio. Gallo keeps things organized serving as the moderator, asking questions of each person who provide succinct answers. It doesn’t make for the liveliest commentary but you do get some good on-set anecdotes.
Alternate Ending (0:52; HD) – This is nothing new, just a bit extended.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (4:22; HD) includes four scenes that were reduced but like the alt. ending, nothing extraordinary nor do they add anything to the story or characters.
Emergency Procedures (14:53; HD) – This featurette has some behind-the-scenes footage and some sound bites with the cast and crew talking about the plot and characters. It’s nothing extraordinary but at least somewhat informative.
Inside the Stunts (6:56; HD) looks at the stunt work, scene by scene, done by both the professionals and some by Halle Berry herself.
Michael Eklund Audition Footage (7:48; SD) allows you to see the actor’s disturbing audition tape for the villain role.
Set Tour of the Call Center (4:51; HD) and Set Tour of the Lair (3:27; HD) shows what went into designing the sets for the call center (which is massive) and the villain’s dark lair.
Previews – Evil Dead, Dead Man Down, The Last Exorcism Part II, “House of Cards”, Magic Mike
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Sony receives The Call (hardy har har) and releases the movie onto Blu-ray presented in its original theatrical 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and a commendable 1080p high-definition transfer. The film, like any newer release, looks nearly pristine with good detail levels throughout, the evenness during the darker scenes look great and the colors seem to be well balanced. It’s not what I would call the perfect transfer yet more than presentable.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
The included 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is on the acceptable level but not much more. While dialogue levels were discernible, and the music cues nice and clear, the action elements were on the softer side not showing too much depth. Still, it’s a fine lossless track just not quite up to the standards of other recent releases.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, The Call isn’t an unpredictable suspense-thriller but thanks to the performances by Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin, and some slick direction by Brad Anderson, it’s an entertaining and captivating thriller from beginning to end even if the finale felt out of place. The Blu-ray has a fair amount of features and the audio/video transfers are both on solid ground.