Do you remember “Rescue 911?” You know…it was an old CBS docudrama from the early ‘90s, and William Shatner hosted it. On the show, they took real recordings of 911 calls and played them against some cheesy re-enactment.
Anyways, Sony Pictures’ The Call is pretty much the same thing as an old episode of “Rescue 911.” However, it’s longer, slightly sexier, a lot more involved, and let’s face it, much, much better.
Set in the metropolitan calamity of modern day Los Angeles, The Call is the story of a veteran 911-response operator named Jordan (Halle Berry). When Jordan makes an honest mistake and botches a response call, resulting in horrific tragedy, she decides to hang up her headset for good and shift her focus to teaching rookies rather than working on calls. It’s not until she is faced with a chillingly similar call, months later, that she is drawn back to the phone and has one more chance to save her victim and redeem herself.
Apart from being an interesting plot, and apart from having a delightfully star-powered cast to draw viewers, The Call stands by itself as a gripping and truly suspenseful thriller. The concept itself is horrifying enough. Imagine a teenaged girl being kidnapped and thrown into the trunk of an unknown car – it’s gut wrenchingly real and disturbing. When combined with sharp editing, strategic pacing and hair-raising music, the finished picture is enough to induce nightmares.
For actress Abigail Breslin (Signs, Little Miss Sunshine), who plays kidnapped teenager Casey, the role was a step out from the normal. In a recent interview with Campus Circle, Breslin said, “I’ve never done something this intense before. I try to do different things all the time so this is definitely different from anything that I’ve done.”
She went on to say that filming this role was a bit of a challenge for her, simply because it required a lot of emotional energy.
“You just logistically run out of energy after a while,” said Breslin. “You run out of tears, you’re exhausted, but working with such great people like I did on this movie helped to keep that energy level high.”
One of the most impressive performances in the The Call is from the film’s maniacal villain, played by Michael Eklund (Watchmen, 88 Minutes). Eklund makes for an outstanding nut job, adding layers to a character that would on the surface seem one-dimensional. His expressions, his repressed rage and his contained outbreaks of violence all point toward a dark psychosis that shapes this frantic, trunk-packing murderer.
Berry puts on a strong performance as the lead role of Jordan, albeit her hairdo is kind of atrocious. Cool and composed, yet haunted and eventually vindictive, she is gripping as the central character holding the whole calamity together. You can tell she had done her homework in regards to establishing a character that is reminiscent of the type of person that actually would work in a 911-call center.
In fact, this film derives a lot of its appeal from elements of reality – that’s part of the reason why it’s so scary. Actor Morris Chestnut (Boyz ‘N the Hood, Like Mike and Think Like a Man) plays Officer Paul Phillips. He elaborated to Campus Circle on the “realness” of the film.
“I thought the way the director set up the realism of it [was intriguing],” said Chestnut when asked about what he thought was particularly captivating about the making of this film. “We didn’t have $100 million to do any big CGI or explosions or crazy 35-minute car chases. It was just real things that can happen.”
The 911-call center backdrop is particularly effective in this way, because it is a perpetually running workplace located in any given city. The Call’s writer Richard D’Ovidio spent time at L.A.’s downtown call center researching for this film. His knowing of that workplace shows on screen as the film gives a unique insight into how these people operate on a daily basis. The way the film moves is even reflective of the pacing of a call center; it’s relentless. You can feel the exhaustion that would hit you after a Friday night shift at one of these centers.
Overall, The Call is worth the time. It’s interesting, and it sticks in your head. Above anything, it’s just plain scary and, for lack of a better word, thrilling. As an effective thriller that will keep your heart racing, The Call is definitely a keeper. With a solid plot, a good concept and some talented actors, you will most likely soil yourself.
Chestnut put it a lot more eloquently, though: “Go see The Call because it’s a nonstop suspenseful thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. And you will enjoy it.”
The Call releases in theaters on March 15.