Brad Anderson // 2013 // 94 mins
After a particularly traumatic call that ended badly due to a lapse in judgement 911 phone operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) resigns herself to using her veteran knowledge in the training of new employees. However when a young operator receives a call from Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), a teenage girl who has been kidnapped and is calling from the trunk of her abductors car, Jordan must overcome her apprehensions and use her skills in trying to find and save the young girl before she comes to any fatal danger.
Filmmakers seem to have realised just how powerful the audio of 911 calls can be in heightening the drama and emotion of a film, with the opening of Zero Dark Thirty being the most recent instance of this technique. The decision to craft a story around the people that have to deal with these calls everyday is inspired and offers endless possibilities for engaging narratives. The Call promises just this as a film centred around a single 911 phone call. The film is at its strongest when focusing on the dialogue between Jordan and Casey, the dynamic of which is brilliantly realised by the two actresses who both do their best to elevate the story. With the dramatic set up built by the prologue fresh in mind, the conflict and fear within the character of Jordan provides just as much intensity as Casey's kidnapping. This is all down to Halle Berry who delivers a truly engrossing performance as a woman who must overcome a great personal turmoil while also trying to help and reassure a terrified young girl.
A now matured Breslin is equally as effective, despite her main objective being to hysterically panic for a prolonged period of time. Nevertheless she realises with skill and an astute realism a horrific situation that the viewer can only imagine having to deal with, and that she is so captivating while being confined to a small, dark space for the majority of the story is a testament to her abilities. When the narrative is focused on their conversation and relationship being built between Casey and Jordan over the phone the film matches the best thrillers in it's intensity and tone. Unfortunately when the focus is placed on the characters and events outside of the phone call the film becomes considerably weaker, due in part to Michael Eklund's poorly constructed villain. This is very much a film of three acts and when the third act ventures entirely away from the premise that made the first two so strong, everything falls apart. Undermining the intense thriller that has been constructed thus far the film makes a 180; transforming the style, direction and performances in order to provide a pseudo-slasher climax. Not only does the films style and narrative alter, the characters that have been created throughout the story change entirely, their behaviour becomes uncharacteristic, unfamiliar, seemingly all for the purpose of ending the film with a moment of meaningless dramatic irony.
The Call is an intriguing venture that starts strong and successfully builds itself around a facet of the crime world rarely seen on film. However an exciting premise and two terrific performances cannot excuse the betrayal that lies in the films final act.