Halle Berry has had it tough since her Oscar win. By tough we mean, she can’t seem to pick a good script. In The Call she portrays 911 phone operator Jordan who, through an act of her own incompetence, is responsible for the abduction and subsequent murder of a teenage girl. Six months later she receives a similar call from Casey (Breslin) who is locked in the boot of a man’s car. Jordan must do all she can to rescue Casey, even if it means leaving the call centre.
The director here is Brad Anderson, the talented man behind The Machinist, he brings something extra to this thriller. In the hands of any other director, we would have a stale film that went out of date back with the release of Cellular. Anderson has a knack for building tension and creating haunting moments and his work is the real star of this film. Sadly his fine directorial skill can’t save the movie from its wonky script. Writers Richard and Nicole D’Ovidio bring us a screenplay that never strays too far from cliché or mundane, it tries to in it’s final act but instead the film just starts rehashing the tropes seen in Saw and various other deranged criminal movies, which is fine, a lot of great work is derivative but it is a shame to see a talented director like Anderson waste his time with this stuff. The ending the writers come up with is laughable and sadly leaves the door open for a sequel.
Berry offers audiences nothing new with her performance; she’s the tough woman she’s always been, although she still doesn’t seem to fit that role. She was far better served by her material with films like Monster’s Ball or even Bullworth, she just doesn’t seem like an action star, and this role doesn’t break her mould. Instead, the best performance comes from Abigail Breslin (the little girl from Little Miss Sunshine). Her performance as the terrified kidnapped teen is top quality. The moment where she first wakes in the trunk of a car is by far the film’s most gripping and believable moment. Michael Eklund is a successful villain but his character is too one note for him to do anything with it.
The film is well directed and performed enough to carry the soullessness of its first two acts, but sadly the 3rd act descends into madness and no amount of talent can save it. This film probably isn’t the bounce back that Halle Berry’s career is looking for, but it definitely won’t hurt her.