The Call
dir Brad Anderson
scr Richard D'Ovidio
prd Bradley Gallo, Jeffrey Graup, Michael A Helfant, Michael Luisi, Robert Stein
with Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, Michael Imperioli, Justina Machado, Roma Maffia, Jose Zuniga, Evie Louise Thompson, Denise Dowse, Ross Gallo
release US 15.Mar.13, UK 20.Sep.13
13/US TriStar 1h34
The Call
Hold the line: Berry

breslin chestnut imperioli
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Call Relentlessly suspenseful, this lean thriller has an emotional subtext that makes it almost unbearably involving. This is an unusually well-made film, packed with little touches that get deep under the skin. So even if the plot takes some contrived turns, it keeps us gripped.

Jordan (Berry) is an emergency line operator in Los Angeles who one night gets a panicked call from a teen who's being stalked in her house. But Jordan makes a mistake that puts the girl in danger. Six months later, she's removed herself to a training role, but ends up on a call with another teen, Casey (Breslin), who has been captured by the same villain (Eklund) and locked in the boot of a moving car. And finding her will require both high-tech trickery and old-fashioned sleuthing.

Since we know what this man is capable of, the intensity builds steadily as Jordan cleverly deals with the call and gives Casey useful advice. But we also see things from Casey's point of view, as well as that of the seriously deranged kidnapper, a passerby (Imperioli) who tries to help, and Jordan's cop ex-boyfriend (Chestnut), who responds to the call and sets out in pursuit. Watching from all of these perspectives diffuses the suspense but ratchets up the emotional intensity.

Director Anderson shoots and edits the film with a fierce sense of energy, barely pausing for breath. Both Berry and Breslin deliver wrenching, full-on performances that require them to go into dark emotional places. Berry's role is viscerally internalised, so when the narrative pauses to catch its breath, our brains are racing as fast as Jordan's. By contrast, Breslin has to be much more physical, especially in the rather gonzo final third when the kidnapper drags her to his grotesque lair.

While the plot plays out like a typical crime thriller, the tone is much more resonant than we expect. Even so, the story goes into some outrageously grisly corners, depicting sadistic violence at levels beyond what was strictly necessary, while the final act gets rather corny when Jordan randomly decides to do some fieldwork without any backup. But the stakes are so high that we accept her uncharacteristic lapse and hang on for dear life.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 29.Aug.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall