Halle Berry - Jordan Turner
Abigail Breslin - Casey Welson
Michael Eklund - Michael Foster
Morris Chestnut - Officer Paul Phillips
David Otunga - Officer Jake Devans
Roma Maffia - Maddy
Michael Imperioli - Alan Denado
Evie Louise Thompson - Leah Templeton
Genre - Thriller/Horror/Serial Killers
Running Time - 94 Minutes
Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is a 911 operator in the Los Angeles area. During a routine call, she learns about a young woman (Evie Louise Thompson) being burglarized and stalked by a strange man (Michael Eklund). When the young woman accidentally disconnects the phone with Jordan while hiding, Jordan makes a careless mistake and calls her back. This alerts the man, who finds the young woman and kidnaps her. Days later, it's confirmed that the young woman, identified as Leah Templeton, was found dead.
Six months pass, and Jordan has ditched the operating and is now a trainer for new potential operators. However, the Hive [the place where the operators work] receive a call from another young woman (Abigail Breslin) who says she's been kidnapped from a mall and is trapped in the trunk of the kidnapper's car. Sensing something similar, Jordan takes over the call and attempts to help the young woman survive the ordeal. When Jordan realizes that the kidnapper is the same man responsible for the death of Leah Templeton, Jordan takes matters into her own hands and decides to help Casey on her own terms.
THE CALL is one of the many released productions by WWE Studios - a company that honestly doesn't have that great of a track record when it comes to box office revenue, and/or quality when it comes to their movies. THE CALL is one of the several films this year [including DEAD MAN DOWN and NO ONE LIVES] that was released theatrically by WWE Studios, especially since the film starred Academy Award Winner Halle Berry and Academy Award Nominated Actress Abigail Breslin in starring roles. Putting real actors in the lead roles over the many WWE Superstars on their roster [although David Otunga does have a supporting role in the film] was the right move. THE CALL was a surprise box office success and is actually WWE Studios most successful film to date. And surprisingly, I can see why - it's not a bad thriller at all! Who knew?
- The acting. While not the greatest, the acting in THE CALL does help elevate the story somewhat. In her best role in years, Halle Berry actually convinced me as Jordan, a 911 operator trying to right the wrongs of her past. Berry usually annoys me, but I thought she was good here as a concerned 911 operator. Maybe it's due to the fact that Berry and the filmmakers actually researched the lives of 911 operators to make the role and film feel more authentic. While not award worthy or anything, I thought Berry carried THE CALL quite well.
I thought Abigail Breslin, who's pretty grown up by this point [time sure flies], did well as Casey. She mainly had to play a confused, frightened kidnapped teenager. But I bought her fear and confusion throughout the film. I also thought Breslin gave the character a bit more depth, as she wasn't totally helpless and continued to fight her attacker to the end. Breslin was pretty good.
The supporting actors, like Morris Chestnut, Roma Maffia, and even wrestler David Otunga did okay in their small roles. I honestly wish these three had more to do in the film, but they weren't terrible. I honestly thought Otunga, especially, would have a bigger role due to the WWE affiliation. I wouldn't have minded since he was much better than I expected.
The real star of the film, though, is Michael Eklund as the kidnapper/killer. This dude was creepy and intense. While the character wasn't new or anything, Eklund still crafted a chilling performance. He also has a face that just exudes horror - I honestly couldn't see this guy as a hero of any film. I thought he was great here, especially when he didn't even have that much dialogue and conveyed his performance through his body language and facial expressions.
- Brad Anderson's direction. Mostly known for his work in the underrated SESSION 9, Brad Anderson really crafted a tense, suspenseful film that kept me on the edge of my seat for much of its running time. The film looked great. I loved the snapshot moments before the killer attacked someone. The pacing was really well done, as the film went by pretty fast. But it's really the insane amount of tension within THE CALL that makes the film work better than it ought to, considering how generic a premise it is. Great moments, like the opening act with Leah Templeton, the whole ordeal with Casey in the trunk and trying to get help, and a scene in the final act where Jordan is hiding from the killer near his closet really elevate this thriller. The stakes were high for these characters and you felt definitely it. I actually cared about the characters and their safety because of how Anderson presented the film. If WWE Studios continues to hire filmmakers who can take a generic story and make it feel somewhat fresh, the studio will be around for a while longer.
- The premise. Like I mentioned, THE CALL really isn't anything new. It has bits of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in it at times. THE CALL honestly could have been your Lifetime TV movie of the week if lesser actors were involved. Yet, the story still works because it has a focus that keeps you invested until the end.
I think the most novel aspect of THE CALL is seeing the story through the eyes of a 911 operator. It's obvious the producers and filmmakers took the time to research the environment and the terminology that 911 operators are surrounded with. I believed that Jordan was an authentic operator wanting to help a young lady stay safe. And watching a film where she's trying to take control of the situation by figuring out what's going on and helping the police catch this kidnapper was actually really cool. All you need to know about Jordan is what we actually see in the film. And through her heroic actions, we sympathize and root for her from beginning to end. Sometimes you don't need a character's life history to make them likeable. Have the character behave like a human being would in a serious situation like this is enough to make that happen.
I also liked the focus and shifting between Jordan and Casey, who share a relationship through the phone during this ordeal. They play off of each other really well, each boosting and motivating each other to achieve a common goal: Casey's survival. Casey could have been your typical whiny teenage victim. But she's written with a certain level of strength that makes her likeable and sympathetic. She does stupid things like all victims do while panicking, but still manages to have her wits about her and fight back.
Even the killer, who is written as a pretty generic "serial killer type", is written in a way that you're interested and fascinated by him and his motives. Like I said, his motives are fairly typical and nothing you wouldn't see on an episode of Criminal Minds. But at least he's presented in a way that makes him watchable.
I wish the entire run-time of THE CALL had decently strong storytelling, but I'll get into that shortly. But I can see why so many went to see THE CALL in theaters and bought it on DVD/Blu-Ray. It's a safe premise told from an unsafe perspective. It works way better than it probably ought to, which makes it pretty impressive.
- Stock characters. While Jordan, Casey, and Michael are pretty strong characters, the rest of them barely register. Some of them would make you expect they should have more of a presence than they actually do. The biggest example is Officer Paul Phillips. He's Jordan's boyfriend and protector, yet the film barely does anything with the character. The character was the stereotypical boyfriend type, but more could have been done with him. If you're going to give the main character a love interest, follow up with it instead of abandoning it completely in the last 30 minutes of the film. He seemed and felt important to the story at times. Why ignore it?
Officer Jake Devans seemed like a decent character as well, with an actual personality and a friendship to Paul. But nothing is done with him either. And Maddy seemed to be Jordan's mentor of sorts, but she's pretty wasted as well. I'm not saying these characters should have deep character arcs. But at least make them feel somewhat more important within the story than actually presented.
- The predictable final act. THE CALL is pretty great for its first hour. Tense, suspenseful, well written, and even well acted. But it pretty much falls off of the rails during the final act. It's not terrible or anything, but pretty undermines everything that came before it.
I actually bought the first hour of the film. I could see a situation like this actually happening in reality. But the last half hour goes into the standard "main character locates villain and confronts him" plot we've seen millions of times before.
Would a 911 operator actually leave her post and confront a dangerous man to save a young girl? It's possible, but probably rare. Also, the killer had an actual family who had NO IDEA what he was up to. I guess I could somewhat buy that too, but the guy has done this sort of thing so many times that I find it implausible that his family was clueless about his demented behavior. From the way the killer was presented throughout the film, he was pretty socially awkward to the point where you'd have alarms going off about him.
And the actual last moments of the film didn't work as effectively as I hoped they would. I get what the filmmakers were going for, but it sort of fell flat for me. In fact, I've seen it done before and done much better to the point where it continues to resonate once the movie ends. I didn't experience that with THE CALL.
It's sad. I was actually disappointed by the ending of THE CALL. The film had such a great first 2 acts that I was hoping it would ride that way towards the finish line. But instead of ending with a bang, it sort of ends with a whimper instead.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE DIALING 911 ABOUT HOW HALLE BERRY STOLE HER ACADEMY AWARD
- Some caller shot himself while talking to Jordan. He must have watched CATWOMAN again.
- Jordan got a young woman kidnapped and murdered, after she redialed the girl's number while the killer was still in the house. I guess she was hoping for another Academy Award, this time in the "Biggest Dumbass In A Movie" category.
- Casey doesn't like to cuss. I see she took being LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE way seriously.
- Michael likes to listen to Taco's version of "Puttin' On The Ritz" during a kidnapping. It's hard to be scared of a man with such impeccable taste in music.
- Michael likes to chatter his teeth when upset or stressed. If crime doesn't pay, he'd make a decent Cenobite, I guess.
- Michael bludgeoned Alan Denado with a shovel. I guess he doesn't dig The Sopranos...
- Michael seems to be tortured and motivated by a tragic past with his sister. Man, that Curse of Thorn really gets around...
THE FINAL HOWL
While not perfect, I can honestly say that I was extremely surprised by how good THE CALL was. I didn't expect much of it, considering the studio behind the film. But it had better than expected acting [especially by Halle Berry], Brad Anderson's tense and suspenseful filmmaking, and a premise that felt both old and new at the same time. Unfortunately, the film falls flat during the final act and some of the supporting characters could have been used more. But overall, THE CALL is the best WWE Studios film since its inception. This is the type of movie they need to continue producing, not another MARINE or 12 ROUNDS sequel. This CALL is definitely worth redialing.