The Call Blu-ray Review
Some jobs are just more stressful than others. That is merely stating the obvious. Air traffic controllers would be one such job with so many lives in the balance every day. A wrong decision means the deaths of hundreds of people. A 911 operator would qualify as well. This person has to be quick on their feet and must make lightning quick decisions. THE CALL is a film that touches on the work of the latter. It is nice low budget thriller that unfortunately goes off the track in the end.
Halle Berry has had spotty record with roles after her Oscar win for Monster’s Ball. Here she stretches her dramatic skills to good effect. Berry plays Jordan, a 911 operator in Los Angeles. Director Brad Anderson establishes early the busy nature of the call center in this populous city. The camera zooms around showing agents using different tactics to diffuse difficult and possibly dangerous situations. The set design is impressive and so detailed. It finally comes to Jordan. Jordan is calm as can be. There is a look of confidence and assurance that comes with experience.
Jordan likes her job and she is well respected in the workplace. Her personal life is on solid ground as well as she is dating a police officer named Paul (Morris Chestnut). Her life though as they say is about to change. Jordan gets a call from a frantic teenage girl. The girl is in her house and there is an intruder prowling around looking for her. The scene is tense as Anderson switches back and forth from the girl to Jordan. Jordan gives her some helpful tips on where to hide and another maneuver that is meant to fool the intruder. This seems to work as the man slowly walks down the stairs and girls looks to be out of danger. But the call gets disconnected and Jordan makes a critical mistake. She calls the girl back and he hears this. This is one fatal mistake as the killer gives Jordan an ominous message before breaking off the call.
The traumatic experience understandably sends Jordan into a tailspin. She realizes that she made a grave mistake. Others around her try to comfort her to no avail. Berry shows a nice vulnerability in these scenes. The movie moves ahead six months and Jordan is now a teacher at the call center. One student asks her why she isn’t on the front line. This brings back the painful memories of her error.
Jordan’s days of not answering calls are not over however. A girl named Casey (a grown up Abigail Breslin) gets kidnapped and knocked out in the mall parking lot by Michael (Michael Eklund). I do have a small quibble with this part. It is a busy mall and no one notices him do this in broad daylight? His timing must be perfect to pull that off, so I guess it is possible. Michael makes a critical error in not fully searching Casey. When Casey wakes up in the trunk, she notices that she has her friend’s cell phone in her pocket. She calls 911 and gets a somewhat green operator. This operator doesn’t know how to handle the situation and Jordan takes over.
The movie takes off with the intensity. Anderson once again alternates between the call center and the ongoing crime area, which in this case is Michael’s car. Jordan comes up with ingenious plans like kicking out the tail light, having Casey wave her hand out of the hole and pouring paint out as well. This alerts other drivers, but Michael catches on to the schemes. The cat and mouse game between Jordan and Michael is fascinating to watch. And you just don’t know if Casey will make it out of this dangerous predicament. This is a low budget thriller, but Anderson does come up with some nifty shots to dazzle the audience. I thought the use of slow motion to show some violent moments was a neat trick. And he doesn’t overdo it either. Anderson picks his spots.
Breslin probably had the toughest assignment of the cast. She was confined to a small space and had to constantly show and act out terror. It must have been exhausting and exhilarating for her. Breslin shows throughout that she does have a future as an adult actress with her wide range of emotions on display.
As the police track down Michael, he narrowly escapes them with quick thinking and brutal violence. At this point THE CALL had been succeeding nicely as a realistic thriller. But Anderson and screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio get too cute in the end. The movie veers off wildly into the horror genre and has many of the clichés that goes with it. I frankly did not think we needed to know the back story of Michael and why he does what he does. A quick mention would have been sufficient, but they had to put on a weird and twisted show. It just doesn’t fit with the tone set in the first hour and it reminds you of better films about killers with similar motives.
I still am recommending THE CALL because it does have some great scenes, wonderful acting and inventive directing. It just is a shame that they couldn’t sustain the momentum in the end.
THE CALL BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: It is a good transfer. All the scenes are clear and look as intended.
Audio: The movie sounds great.
Commentary with Abigail Breslin, Halle Berry and the filmmakers: It’s a straight forward approach to the commentary. One of the producers asks like an interviewer and fires off questions. It may have worked better if there was one commentary with the actors and another with the filmmakers. It still is informative.
Alternate Ending (.52): This is not too much different than the ending used. It just adds a bit more to the aftermath.
On the Set: The Lair (3:27): The production designer goes over how the lair got its look. Breslin and Berry share their thoughts on this set piece.
On the Set: The Call Center (4:51): The production designer once again goes over his choices. Anderson chimes in on how he wanted it to be authentic. Both features are interesting.
Deleted and Extended Scenes: 4 scenes in total.
1. Call Center Glass (.59): Jordan talking to her students. This is a tad different than the scene used.
2. Jordan and Officer Phillips Talk on Rooftop: (1:40): Once again there is a slight variation shown. The status of the relationship gets put more in focus.
3. Michael Moves Casey to Another Car (.51): Michael gets crazier here.
4. Last Warning (1:06): Another variation of Michael talking to Casey.
Emergency Procedures-Making the Film (14:53): All the major actors talk about the film and what drew them to it and their process. The filmmakers also discuss how the movie came about. There is an enjoyable talk on who they would want to be stuck in a car truck with.
Inside the Stunts (6:56): They go over the stunts involving the trap door, parking garage, the shovel and the gas stating. I loved this feature. There is so much cool stuff discussed and how they pulled it off.
Michael Eklund Audition Footage (7:48): Fascinating piece with Eklund going over various scenes. There is also an eerie piece giving even more background to the character.