<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Brad Anderson. Starring Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund, Morris Chestnut
I watched a ‘horror’ movie recently and let me tell you I was more terrified watching The Call than a movie called Sinister! It’s edge-of-your-seat thrills with a bit of an unbelievable ending that doesn’t take away from what you’ve just watched.
What would you do if someone broke into your house? Well here in India we’d call 100 and wait. And wait. And be informed 10 minutes later that a van will come by. In America, they’ll call their emergency number 911 for almost anything, including a bat in the house. And 911 will despatch Animal Control to you before you can be turned into a vampire.
In The Call, Halle Berry plays 911 operator Jordan who gets the aforementioned break-in emergency call from a young girl alone at home. Jordan gets emotional and then she makes one mistake that leads to the girl’s kidnap and murder. And Jordan can’t take it anymore so she ditches her headphones to become an instructor at the ‘hive’: the HQ for 911 operators who are the lifeline of the city of LA providing an essential link between the person reporting and the police on the ground.
It’s not long before Jordan has to rescue a new recruit from a phone call she can’t handle. And this one’s another kidnapping of a young girl called Casey (Abigail Breslin). Tearing up and shaky Jordan knows she must help this little girl captive in the boot of a car to redeem herself and save a life.
Right from the get go, director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian) ratchets up the suspense. Who is this silent abductor behind the sunglasses? Will Jordan crumble yet again and lose Casey? Will Jordan’s hot cop boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) get to Casey in time to save her from death? And will random prospective saviours be spared the mad man’s psychopathic outbursts? No, on that last question.
A good chunk of the action takes place in the kidnap cars (yes, plural) on the road and in the 911 call centre. Halle Berry plays the average Jane doing her job to perfection with little glam in this role. Michael Eklund as the kidnapper maniac is terrific in a role where he hardly has much dialogue and only his actions and facial expressions must convey pure and unreserved evil. A chill will run down your spine, you will tense up at every moment you think Casey is going to be caught trying to make an escape with Jordan’s help. The fear is palpable. Abigail Breslin emotes that fear with a consistency and fluidity of a pro. The Little Miss Sunshine star has grown up to be a capable actor.
The only thing that may jar with viewers is when the filmmakers and writers make Jordan step out of her world and try and rescue Casey herself, unarmed and alone. And then of course there’s the slightly unbelievable finale that sees a macabre sort of justice being doled out to the kidnapper. But it’s all done with so much grit and confidence that you are coerced into giving it all the benefit of the doubt.
You must suspend disbelief just like you do when you watch CSI and think that the crime lab guys actually go out and interrogate witnesses or chase them down.
Eerie and chilling, the torture bits with Michael Eklund working on his victim are reminiscent of Hannibal Lector in the The Silence of the Lambs. And in Hitchcock style, some of the bits are left to the imagination, which ends up creating more fear in your mind. That’s also thanks to a brilliant score by John Debney.
I’m noticing that filmmakers have to compete a lot more with real life tragedies. They have to make their thrillers more thrilling, pushing the limits of violence and shock factor to an audience that has in many ways become numb to disasters both natural and terrorist-inflicted.
The Call and Jurassic Park 3D are the perfect fright night movies for you this weekend.