Berry excellent choice for role in 'The Call'
It has always amazed me that someone can make a really good movie for an hour and a half, and then add on a terrible ending. I've always referred to this phenomenon as a "Stephen King" ending, in honor of one of my favorite authors, who writes such awesome horror stories, only to end them with letdown finishes.
And this is what director Brad Anderson ("The Machinist," "Fringe," "The Wire") has done to a great little suspense film titled "The Call."
With an excellent choice of actress Halle Berry ("X-Men" movies, "Monster's Ball," "Catwoman") as 911 operator Jordan Turner, he puts her into a situation where she has to guide a kidnapped teenager through a horrifying ordeal. Berry's performance is not as captivating as Sidney Poitier was back in 1965's suicide hotline thriller, "The Slender Thread," but not many actors can go toe-to-toe with a legend like Poitier.
Berry and child star Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine," "Kitt Kitteridge: An American Girl," "Definitely, Maybe") interact so well in the traumatic chase scenes, that the movie becomes an edge-of-the-seat suspense piece.
Anderson is perfect in arranging side bars of people interacting with the kidnapper and the 911 operator, to dilute the tenseness, and although there are a few errors in protocol as to what would logically happen in the situation, he keeps action going in a straight line, with a lot of steam.
Michael Eklund ("Errors of the Human Body," "Shattered," "The Divide") does great in limited exposure as the kidnapper, playing less of a Hannibal Lecter and more of a Jame Gumb.
His semi-anonymous appearances are genuinely creepy and make for a lot of suspense as we see glimpses of him during the "chase" sequences.
But, when 911 operator Turner actually leaves the "hive" and starts her own investigating, this is where "The Call" jumps off track.
Never mind the fact that it is illegal for her to do so, or that a SWAT team would leave the DESERTED, ISOLATED shack of a suspected serial rapist unguarded, unwatched, unlocked and without even putting up any of that cool Crime Scene tape...
And, you can't overlook the fact that they missed a hiding place that was only about 30 yards from the shack, or that the bad guy went into a cellar and then managed to cover the trap door with dirt and leaves from INSIDE (I thought the movie about magicians was on the movie screen next door).
And, you REALLY have to suspend all reality when, even though trained police officer Paul, with gun, bullet-proof vest and partner, will not go through an unknown door without two dozen SWAT members as back-up, and yet, one hundred pound, unarmed Jordan dives bravely into a dark dungeon (me thinks Ms. Berry has been portraying one too many spies and/or superheroes).
The last third of the movie was as though the writer was told that he had 10 minutes to finish up, before the filming began.
The second tier of actors was filled with a few of those "I know that guy from SOMEWHERE" performers such as Morris Chestnut ("Boyz in the Hood," "Identity Thief," "Ladder 49") as Officer Paul Phillips and Roma Maffia ("Nip/Tuck," "Boston Legal," "Profiler") as 911 Supervisor Maddy.
Michael Imperioli ("Sopranos," "Detroit 1-8-7," "Law & Order") actually abandoned his liquor commercials for a solid role as a concerned citizen, where he does very well with the part. After many years on "The Sopranos," it is pure Movie Irony that he would end up stabbed and stuffed in the trunk of a Lincoln.
If you want to watch a very good movie about the tension of a horrific 911 call and how the operators handle it (which is what the trailers show), you should do what Halle Berry's character SHOULD have done in the movie...
When Jordan Turner, the 911 operator, has done all that she can legally, morally and cinematically do, you (and she) should take off the earphones and go home...
Leave the actual "take-downs" to the John McClanes, Dirty Harrys and Clarice Starlings on the world.
Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.