Call, The (2013)

US / 94 minutes / color / TriStar, WWE, Troika, Stage 6, Amasia, Apotheosis Dir: Brad Anderson Pr: Jeff Graup, Michael J. Luisi, Michael A. Helfant, Robert L. Stein, Bradley Gallo Scr: Richard D’Ovidio Story: Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio, Jon Bokenkamp Cine: Thomas Yatsko Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, Roma Maffia, José Zúñiga, Michael Imperioli, Justina Machado, Evie Louise Thompson, Denise Dowse, Ella Rae Peck, Jenna Lamia, Ross Gallo.

A tightly made psychological thriller which has echoes of Berry’s earlier movie GOTHIKA (2003), albeit without the supernatural component.

Six months ago 911 call operator Jordan Turner (Berry) fielded a call from terrified teenager Leah Templeton (Thompson), alone in a house into which a predator had just broken. By the time Jordan could get cops to the scene, both predator and victim had vanished; later Leah was discovered in a remote shallow grave. Jordan is haunted by the final words the killer said to her before disconnecting the call: “It’s already done.”

The Call - Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) at work

Call operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) at work.

Now another teenager has been abducted, this time from a parking lot: Casey Welson (Breslin). Casey wakes in the trunk of a speeding car, realizes her abductor has omitted to take away her cell phone, and calls 911. Again, it’s Jordan—even though she’s been relegated to teaching duty to get over the trauma of the Leah Templeton affair—who takes the call. She and Casey very swiftly establish a relationship, and together they work through various stratagems whereby Casey might free herself even before the cops could find her. (The cell phone’s a disposable, which means tracking its signal is problematic.) The plans are thwarted, in part through the abductor’s ruthless elimination of anyone who might help the resourceful teenager.

While cops led by Jordan’s lover, Officer Paul Phillips (Chestnut), sweep the countryside trying to locate the kidnapper—by now, murderer—he switches cars and makes his way to an isolated shack where, unloading Casey from the trunk, he at last discovers—and smashes—her phone.

The Call - Casey (Abigail Breslin) tries to break free

Abducted Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) tries to break free.

So far as Jordan’s colleagues at the Hive—the 911 call center—are concerned, that’s the end of her involvement in the case. However, distraught, she plays and replays the abductor’s final words to her, in a voice she remembers all too well from six months ago: “It’s already done.” In the background she can hear a distinctive metallic chinking, but has no idea what it might be. By now the psycho has been identified from fingerprint evidence as Michael Foster (Eklund); he’s been seizing and scalping young women whose hair reminds him of the beloved older sister he lost years ago to cancer. The cops have elicited the address of a rundown cottage Foster inherited from his late mother and have checked it out, but found nothing. Acting on hunch, Jordan checks it out herself that night, discovers that the clinking noise came from a flagpole and that nearby there’s a disguised trapdoor in the ground. As she starts to phone for help, her nervous fingers drop the phone into the hole, so down into it she must climb . . .

The Call - a visual quote from SUDDEN FEAR 1952

Jordan (Halle Berry) spies on the bad guy in what looks like a deliberate visual quote from SUDDEN FEAR (1952).

The movie doesn’t break much by way of new territory but it’s very well crafted. Even though the critics were in general fairly unenthusiastic, audiences were far more receptive and The Call was a resounding box-office success. For Berry this was welcome news after a string of flops and near-flops, including (of noirish interest) Gothika and PERFECT STRANGER (2007). She’s in fine form here, despite a hair-do that should have been taken out and shot, and the performance from her co-star Breslin is if anything even better.


On The Call

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