The Call

Directed by: Brad Anderson

Starring:  Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, and David Otunga

Going in to see Halle Berry’s new suspense thriller, I had low expectations.  WWE films are not usually known for their high quality.  I assumed with David Otunga, WWE Wrestler and former contestant on I Love New York as part of the cast, The Call would be more mindless “entertainment.”  Given that the movie's trailer was incredibly revealing, I assumed The Call was going to be a glorified Lifetime movie.  Much to my surprise, The Call actually delivers an intense, emotional first hour, but then veers to the ridiculous in the end. 

Jordan Turner (Berry) is a seasoned 911 operator in California.  She works in “the hive”, a nickname for 911 central.  She has great colleagues at work and is in a loving relationship with hot boyfriend Officer Paul Phillips (Morris Chestnut).  However, things go awry one night when Turner is on duty and she receives a call from a teenage girl telling her that someone is trying to break into her house.  The girl’s parents are at the movies, and she is home alone.  Turner calmly gets the girl to a different room and almost helps her escape the intruder (Michael Eklund).  Somehow, the call gets disconnected and Turner makes a huge error by calling the house back, alerting the intruder to the girl’s location.  He finds the teen, kidnaps and then kills her.

Turner is devastated by her mistake and stops working as an operator.  Instead, she becomes a trainer for those headed to work in the hive.  However, her retirement ends when a new crisis arises.  Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is leaving the mall and headed to her car in the parking lot.  The killer who kidnapped the other teen has a thing for blondes, and he kidnaps Casey at the mall and stuffs her in the trunk.  Casey, however, has a cellphone in her pocket and she immediately calls 911.  Turner is giving a tour to new recruits, and has to come out of retirement and field the call.  Turner tries to maintain contact with Casey and talk her through the ordeal.  Working with Officer Phillips and Officer Jake (David Otunga), Turner races against the clock to save another girl from being brutally murdered.

The Call is an intense thriller.  I never really gave much thought to the role of the 911 operator, but it is so critical and so intense that it takes a special person to handle stressful, emergency situations.  The 911 operator is a strategist, a counselor, a phone operator, a data entry clerk and a host of other jobs wrapped into one. It is interesting to watch Berry’s character navigate the kidnapped girl through her ordeal.  Heck, I know what to do now if I get locked in a trunk.

The film would be nothing, however, without strong performances from Berry and Breslin.  Despite the horribly distracting wig they place on Berry to make her look like a regular woman (yeah right), Berry shines as a dedicated, quick-thinking operator.  She infuses her character with genuine passion and empathy.  Berry and Little Miss Sunshine’s Breslin have an amazing chemistry, albeit through the phone.  Breslin has grown up from her days as a child pageant contestant.  She adeptly conveys panic, fear, courage and desperation throughout the film, and she even brought me to tears in one poignant scene involving her mother.

The problem with The Call is that the writers did not stick to Berry’s role as a 911 operator.  Because they felt a need for a formulaic hero versus villain confrontation in the finale, the movie veers off course by taking Berry out of the hive and into the field.  911 operators do not leave headquarters and go out to investigate a crime scene.  They do not go against their own basic training and explore dangerous areas without police officers.  Their job is to get police officers to the scene, not take matters into their own hands. The idea is so preposterous that several people actually chuckled in my theater. The film’s ridiculous final act will leave many viewers incredulous.

With all of that being said, the first hour and fifteen minutes or so of the film were entertaining, and at times powerful.  The film’s ending, however, leaves a lot to be desired.  The Call earns a 0.06% rating.  Have a beer with this one.