The Call (2013)

[repeated line]: "911, what is your emergency?"
By Brad Anderson
With Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin and Michael Eklund

I originally didn't feel like seeing The Call, and it was only after I realized Brad Anderson directed it (he also directed one of my favorite movies of all time: The Machinist (2004)) that I decided to see it.

In this film, Jordan Turner is a 911 operator who answers all sorts of calls all day long. A teenager calls her when someone tries to break into her home, and Jordan helps her by tricking the intruder to think she jumped out the window... Except that the phone call ends and Jordan makes the mistake of re-dialing which the man hears and kills the girl. Jumping six months forward, Jordan is not an operator anymore and trains new operators. At one point, she sees a girl she recently trained panicking because she couldn't locate the call of a young girl who has been kidnapped. Jordan then takes over in an attempt to locate her.

I was pleased at first when I saw Jordan plagued by guilt. Not in any masochistic way, but because Brad Anderson's movies that deal with guilt tend to be phenomenal. I think he films the psychological terror of guilt ridden individuals in the most exquisite manner.

Somehow, though, the script of this film leads us elsewhere and the theme of guilt wasn't pivotal to the movie- much to my sadness. The kidnapping explores interesting terrains but is driven mostly by the call that Casey manages to have with Jordan. It wasn't always handled in the best possible way, but it did a fairly good job and the action doesn't fail to keep the viewer at the edge of their seat.

However, I am a little saddened by the portrayal of the killer, as it relies on too many cinematic clichés. There are so many movies about serial killers and other psychopaths, yet so few of them have the decency to depict them as humans. I think the best movies about serial killers are those which dare to approach a more nuanced understanding of serial killers. It is so easy to scapegoat them and label them as monsters so we can rest peacefully and distance ourselves.

Nevertheless, the movie unfolds well as a thriller. There were a few twists here and there which I enjoyed but which could potentially have a polarizing effect on the audience.

I liked: Good suspense. Interesting close-ups. Great female-on-male kick to the face!

I disliked: Lacked psychological complexity. I'd be annoyed if an operator kept calling me sweetheart.

It should please most viewers, I think it was daring enough to make some viewers uncomfortable, but not daring enough to make it a special movie.


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