On the brink of a crisis in ‘The Call’
BY BILL ZWECKER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST March 14, 2013 4:46PM
This film image released by Sony - TriStar Pictures shows Halle Berry in a scene from "The Call." (AP Photo/ Sony-TriStar Pictures, Greg Gayne)
‘THE CALL’ ★★½
Jordan Halle Berry
Paul Morris Chestnut
Foster Michael Eklund
Casey Abigail Breslin
Alan Michael Imperioli
Tri-Star presents a film directed by Brad Anderson. Written by Richard D’Ovidio. Running time: 94 minutes. Rated R (for violence, disturbing content and some language). Opening Friday at local theaters.
Updated: April 16, 2013 3:10PM
Without question, some of the most underappreciated people in the world of “first responders” have to be the valiant men and women who work as 911 emergency center operators. Usually they are the very first of the first responders, as they field the initial call about a serious accident, fire, home invasion or violent criminal attack.
The tough part — one of many challenges these individuals face on a daily basis — is having the ability, by using only the power of their voice and and relying on their communication skills with unseen callers, as they attempt to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.
That is the situation graphically illustrated in “The Call,” director Brad Anderson’s thriller starring Halle Berry as a Los Angeles 911 operator confronted with a serial killer — not once but twice.
Early on in this predictable crime drama, Jordan Turner (Berry) receives a desperate call from a young woman home alone and on the verge of hysteria as a man breaks into her home.
Tragically, the girl ends up being kidnapped and then is discovered some days later, brutally murdered and apparently the latest victim of a sadistic serial killer.
This particular episode devastates Berry and fills her with seemingly unconquerable guilt. It causes her to be transferred into the far less stressful job of training potential 911 operators.
While giving a tour of her center to a group of prospective trainees, Turner is standing next to a new operator unable to effectively handle a call from a woman who has been kidnapped from a shopping mall garage. She’s calling on an untraceable cellphone, while captive in her assailant’s car’s trunk.
Stepping into the breach, Turner is again facing a frantic situation, though this time she is given more time to connect with the victim, a teenager named Casey. Abigail Breslin delivers a solid performance, extremely believable as a relatively innocent teen, plunged into inexplicable terror, forcing her to grow up far too quickly.
The somewhat hard-to-believe irony: Jordan comes to discover that the man who has kidnapped Casey is the very same man who murdered the young woman months earlier — leading to Turner’s ongoing, angst-ridden mindset.
Despite the fact the screenplay for “The Call” contains fairly unbelievable coincidences and circumstances that require us to suspend logic somewhat, Anderson’s fast-paced direction and ability to keep us on the edge of our seats provides the right tone a good thriller should deliver.
Berry has the toughest job, since virtually all of her scenes are only of her communicating to Breslin via the phone, requiring her to use all of her acting chops to create the tension that will keep viewers engaged.
While Morris Chestnut is woefully underused as the police officer who also is Berry’s love interest, a shout-out needs to go to actor Michael Eklund who is absolutely chilling — as well he should be — as the kidnapper/serial killer.
His ability to telegraph twisted, insane rage, along with a very forgettable, bland everyman persona, which disguises that sick rage, is another example of this actor’s outstanding abilities.
Ekland’s interpretation really gives “The Call” the needed impact another less-talented actor would not have provided.
On top of that, the film ends with a wonderful twist that will have audiences chatting long after they leave the theater.