A taut first act descends into a comic book/vigilante drama starring Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin
Since her Oscar-winning performance in Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry’s career choices have seemed fairly random, hitting a new low with last year’s barely released shark-stew Dark Tide. Her latest thriller, The Call, at least starts on surer footing, casting the star as a sassy 911 operator who develops an intense relationship with a kidnapped girl.
Jordan Turner (Berry) is plagued by self-recrimination after her failure to rescue a teenager from a vicious child murderer, which is shown in The Call’s tense opening sequence. During an open day at the facility where she works, Jordan gets a chance to redeem herself when she’s patched through to Casey (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin), who has been unfortunate enough to attract the attention of the killer, and now finds herself trapped in the boot of his car as he drives along the highway to his lair.
The setting of a 911 operations centre is an obviously rich source of drama, and the direction of Brad Anderson (The Machinist) brings an enjoyable tautness to the first half of the film, as Jordan desperately attempts to figure out how to find and then lead the police to Casey. But the second half, in which Jordan takes leave of the phone centre in order to attempt a one-woman rescue, quickly goes from improbable to ridiculous. The film ends limply with a final denouement that’s far too familiar from The Silence of The Lambs and a resolution that’s deeply unsatisfying.
Berry is an empathetic enough lead, and The Call provides her with a strong, involving situation, together with underused support including the excellent Roma Maffia as Jordan’s more experienced boss Maddy. But the serious subject of child abduction and murder isn’t well served by the way Anderson’s film veers into a comic book / vigilante drama, ultimately making this a call worth missing.
General release from Fri 20 Sep.