The Call: Hung-Up on Break Room Daydreaming

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Director: Brad Anderson

Stars: Halle Berry, Evie Thompson, Abigail Breslin

Genre: Thriller

I’ll admit, sometimes when my phone rings I fantasize that CSIS or CTU is on the other line waiting to give me that special code phrase (“It’s time to take a Vacation”) to let me know I have to begin suiting up, or that Jack Bauer is in need of a full-tactical and surveillance kit that’s in the back of my imagined black Yukon SUV. Jack and I would then roll up to a scene with head sets and MP5’s, doing power-slides, while turning criminals into Swiss cheese.

With that said, fantasy is fun, though only when it’s done right; like in the back of my mind or on the set for The Walking Dead. Sadly, The Call gets off to a good start, but ultimately turns out to be one of those sloppy fantasies that you would conjure up during a boring college lecture or while you are paying tribute to the Porcelain God’s on your bathroom throne; a fantasy rushed and given third class attention.

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My first indication that this film was going to ultimately let me down and annoy the shit out of me was the result of seeing two things: Halle Berry’s hair-do, and the fact that this film was in association with World Wrestling Entertainment. Needless to say I was prepared and armed with a couple of cold LeinenKugel’s, courtesy of the LeinenKugel’s Chippewa Falls Brewing Company; brewed with 5 (count em’ 5) American hops that provides a bold and robust tasting experience.

Anyways, the first half-hour takes us inside an LAPD call centre manned entirely; it would seem, by morons. Our heroine is rung up by a teenage girl who’s hiding from a prowler. Everything goes swimmingly until the connection is lost. So Halle (Jordan) rings the girl up, which reveals to the murderous prowler that the teenager is under the bed: Amateur hour.

Six months later, Jordan has been rewarded with promotion (Say what?). Then the centre gets a call from another teen (Abigail Breslin), who’s been captured by a serial killer (Michael Eklund). Jordan gives good, calm advice on how the girl can enable the authorities to track her down. This is the best part of the movie and seems properly researched, though it stretches credulity that the kidnapper doesn’t check to see if a teenage victim has a cell phone( If you’re going to do a kidnapping….do it right, no half ass-ing it).

As events unfold, it’s beyond belief that the police-air unit and all- can’t find a car with a broken tail light, a girl waving  her arm at following vehicles and dripping white paint making a trail. With the police bewildered as to the kidnapper’s location, Jordan morphs into Nancy Drew and easily discovers his lair. And just as you think the movie can’t get any cheesier, it becomes an I Spit On Your Grave-style  feminist revenge fantasy. The whole ending is contrived from the point where our heroine can’t call for Code 3 assistance because of a phone mishap -which could have easily been avoided if she didn’t have butter-fingers- to the various protocols, ethics and every post-911 security law that she breaks.

ImageAn operator without any field experience, a side-arm, along with zero body mass taking on an experienced/dangerous male predator in reality is borderline suicidal; and would only happen during one of your mediocre break-room fantasies while you chew on last night’s pizza.

I don’t care how much passion you have as a 9-11 operator, in any case, protocol/common sense would leave this job to the brave men in blue who have Adams apples the size of their balls, and M4A1’s the length of their man cannons. An inexperienced 9-11 operator sending herself into a situation like the one Jordan does is asking (in reality) for the crisis to go from a Code 207(Kidnapping) to a multiple 187(You can throw in some 240’s and a 242 while you’re at it as well) A film that started out as a tense little thriller has completed its transformation into a sleazy, ridiculous, involuntarily hilarious disaster. Yay for Hollywood!

ImageAs far as the strengths go for this film, the pacing is nice and steady at least. It had to be, because losing the audience to dullness or inactivity is the kiss of death for any thriller. That said, The Call is to be praised for its constant movement – not an easy mission when you consider that films of this breed can become droning after forty minutes. We usually know about the antagonist and their motives, and sometimes we don’t really care. Here, there is a completely different scenario. Once we know about Michael Foster, we have a lot of unanswered questions about his past and why he is taking us on this journey of terror.

We don’t know why he’s insane or whether his victims are purposely chosen or just random, ill-fated girls. There are hints thrown our way as the plot unravels, but there is never anything definitive which is a plus for this film. It suggests that some people are just crazy – and sometimes people are cosmically chosen to cross paths with them.

In closing, I do like revenge fantasies -when they are believable. This movie was ultimately supposed to be a thriller, not sci-fi or fantasy. There has to be that element of wishful thinking coupled with the probable thought of it truly happening in reality. The Call got my hopes up by then blue-balling me at the very end. It was frustrating because the whole experience could have been amazing if Jordan hadn’t pulled an implausible amateur-hour Rambo moment that ruined the entire mood and my evening. Oh well, there are always more thrillers around the corner as they say.

In honor of Jordan, here is my song and gift to her character by the Talking Heads titled Dream Operator.

Keep on dreaming honey.

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