When you ask someone why they want to see a movie, there are a lot of different reasons that person might give you. They could love the genre, or the director, or the actors involved. Most of the time, however, it’s because they liked the trailer. Unfortunately, people in Hollywood have gotten pretty good at making good trailers for crappy movies, thus getting audiences’ hopes up and creating that much more disappointment. What we don’t often see, however, are decent movies with terrible trailers. Luckily, in this case, the end product isn’t nearly as terrible as the clumsy, overly revealing trailers might suggest. The camerawork is pretty shoddy and everything the trailers give away was incredibly predictable in the first place, but between a fast pace and an appropriately f*cked up villain The Call adds up to a surprisingly decent thriller.
The Plot: 5/10
When a veteran 911 operator takes a life-altering call from a teenage girl who has just been abducted, she realizes that she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girl’s life.
The plot itself can be divided into two areas, premise and execution. The premise itself is actually pretty interesting in my opinion. We’ve seen plenty of kidnap-themed movies but usually from the point of view from a family member, spouse, or dedicated law enforcement officer. To see it from the point of view of a 911 operative completely changes the level of interaction between the kidnapped person and the person who is trying to rescue them.
Unfortunately, this premise is somewhat wasted on a very unimaginitive and predictable plot. To be fair, it would have been hard to rise above the fact that scenes from the last five minutes of the movie are in the goddamn trailer. Even if I hadn’t have seen the trailer though, there are still very few things here that would have taken me by any measure of surprise. I would like to note that the one thing that did manage to take me off guard somewhat was the very ending scene, which I’ve heard a lot of people cite as one of the biggest missteps the movie takes even though I myself found it to be an welcome, unexpected departure from the subgenre’s usual formula.
The Writing: 6/10
There’s really nothing special on the writing front, but the script is at the very least solid enough to avoid distracting viewers from the events going on behind it. The dialogue gets a little too cliche at some points, but never felt the urge to get up and shout “That’s not how real people talk!” at the screen. My biggest annoyance here was with the fact that Halle Berry’s character makes way too many stupid mistakes which end up costing people their lives, only to have her errors be dismissed as “part of the job” by her co-workers. These lapses in decision-making ability culminate in a mano-a-womano ending between Jordan and the bad guy which feels incredibly contrived and overly-indulgent in terms of trying to give Jordan a chance to help out without being on the other end of a phone.
The Acting: 6/10
Once again, nothing spectacular here but nothing that made me absolutely laugh my ass off. Halle Berry has a difficult character to work with, as she is simultaneously great at her job and terrible at it. The result is a bit of difficulty in taking her seriously when she’s actually doing things well, an effect which Berry can’t really seem to overcome no matter how much vulnerability she puts into the role.
Opposite of Berry, Abigail Breslin’s role is dominated by an understandable yet eventually tiring amount of freaking out in the trunk of a car. It’s hard to really set yourself apart as an actress when you’re basically given a damsel-in-distress role, but once Breslin gets out of the trunk she at least grabs on or two of the kind of moments that made me love her in Zombieland. That’s not to say I approve of her as a blonde though. Just… no.
As for Michael Eklund, I hardly remember his acting merits on account of how screwed up his character was. I mean, you expect the villain in a kidnapping movie to be pretty evil but when you combine that with notes of serial killer it’s more than a little unsettling. I would probably have to say that Eklund overacts here quite a bit, and I would have liked to see a bit more Hannibal Lector-ish confidence instead of Michael’s perpetual state of frustrated anger.
The Drama: 7/10
While I could probably tear many more aspects of this movie apart than I already have, the simple fact of the matter is I just wasn’t too focused on finding all of the flaws while I was watching it. Regardless of the predictable nature of the plot, I still somehow found myself wrapped up in Jordan’s attempts to get Casey free from captivity. In this sense, the movie does a good job of keeping the focus on the practical elements of how to get out of that kind of a situation. I give a lot of the credit to director Brad Anderson, whose most notable contribution to film prior to this was The Machinist, aka the role that Christian Bale starved himself to play. I would like to mention that for all of the good Anderson does in keeping the adrenaline flowing, the excess of shaky, close-up shots he uses in nearly any scene that features violence just did not work for me.
The Verdict: 6.0/10 – Passable
+ Fast Pacing and (mostly) good directing keep things exciting
+ The acting isn’t exactly Oscar-worthy, but Berry and Breslin are still perfectly fine
– Incredibly predictable; after all, the trailer pretty much shows the ending
– An excess of baffling blunders made my Berry’s character can’t quite go unignored
*I was fully prepared to hate this movie, which is probably why my opinion of it is maybe a bit higher than what it would have been otherwise.
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 5.5/10