The Call is a better movie than it needs to be, and you should be grateful for that. After all, this is a thriller arriving in the middle of March, where most studios usually bury their duds. But lo and behold, save for a final fifteen minutes that throw credulity out the window, The Call is a bona-fide nail-biter that mostly delivers on its intriguing premise.
Halle Berry stars as Jordan Turner, a veteran 911 operator who answers a call from teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), who has been abducted by a serial killer (Michael Eklund). As Jordan and the police race to find Casey, Jordan realizes that the girl’s captor is the same man who abducted and murdered a teenage girl six months earlier.
The screenplay cleverly takes a familiar idea and makes it taut and suspenseful by confronting intelligent characters with believable obstacles. Casey’s phone is disposable, which prevents the police from tracking it. Signal strength varies in and out. Computer screens load agonizingly slowly. No one makes any bone-headed moves that take the audience out of the story, a refreshing change from typical thriller fare.
Berry is aces as Jordan, presenting her strengths and weaknesses without making her either superhuman or pathetic. She’s a compulsively watchable heroine, and Berry succeeds in dialing up the tension to almost unbearable levels. Breslin, all grown up, is just as good as a kidnap victim who keeps her wits about her even under the most terrifying circumstances imaginable. Though The Call is her first thriller role, it certainly won’t be her last after this pulse-pounding performance. And Eklund is scary good as the story’s resident maniac, savoring every homicidal giggle.
As Jordan attempts to keep Casey on the line long enough to locate her, The Call is a top-notch thriller. It’s only once Jordan gets out from behind the desk that the movie loses its momentum. The last fifteen minutes, viscerally satisfying though they are, end The Call on an odd, almost sour, certainly implausible note. Less, for The Call, would have definitely been more.
That implausible ending aside, any March thriller that keeps me glued to the edge of my seat as consistently as The Call did is hard to dismiss as common trash. It’s better than most of the generic thrillers that major studios churn out year after year, and that’s noteworthy in of itself. The Call, though it careens wildly out of control in its final act, is an entertaining and accessible way to spend an hour and a half. B
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