Movie Review: The Call

Movie Review: The Call

Personal resolve is challenged in this hearty crime thriller

By Mark HadleyWednesday 22 May 2013MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

Rating: M
Distributor: Roadshow
Release Date: May 16

A desperate 911 call … a woman screaming for help … a prisoner kept under lock and key for the pleasure of a warped man. No, this is not a news report originating from Cleveland in the United States. The Call is a new thriller from Troika Pictures that shows the gap between fantasy and reality is never as large as we think.

The Call starring Halle Berry

Halle Berry plays Jordan Turner, a 911 operator who receives a call from a crime in progress. A terrified teenage girl reports that a prowler is trying to break into her house. Turner gives the girl every piece of advice she can offer over the phone but fails to save her before the police arrive. When the victim’s mutilated body is discovered in a shallow grave some days later Jordan wonders whether she has what it takes to do her job:

“My daddy used to say that the hardest part about being a cop is knowing that you may be the difference between somebody living and somebody dying. When you can’t show to that, it’s time to give up.”

But six months later Jordan is back in ‘the hive’, the high-tech call centre where emergency calls come through. Again she receives a desperate plea from a girl who is locked in the boot of her kidnapper’s car. A few chance words from her captor reveal that Jordan is dealing with the same killer who devastated her life only half a year ago. Tracing a mystery sound from her telephone conversation, Jordan becomes determined to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

The Call is multi-jump thriller. If you’re faint of heart, don’t go to the cinema without your ‘calm breathing’ exercises. Better than that, though, is the film’s up front originality. Screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio takes viewers deep into the world of the emergency operator, displaying the calm detachment and detective skills he or she employs as they attempt to cut through a victim’s panic. Berry does an excellent job of portraying a strong female professional in a largely unknown arena … but then undercuts it with a weird decision in the third act. I won’t ruin the storyline but what starts out as serious chess game with a serial killer similar to Silence Of The Lambs devolves into series of ridiculous blunders. “Oh, look – a dark underground cellar where the killer might be hiding – shall I go in alone, or call the police? Let me see…” Get the picture?

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The strength underlying The Call’s drama is the conviction that a small cog in the law enforcement machine can make a difference – in the most horrible circumstances, we can still hope that justice will be done. But the sad contradiction waiting at the end of the film is the suggestion that the law isn’t justice enough. If our villain is going to get what he has coming then extraordinary measures are called for. Though The Call deserves to be panned for this last minute loss of faith, it has actually done unexpectedly well at the American box office. I can only assume it’s because viewers have similarly lost faith in the idea that any court can effectively punish evil. And who could blame them? If justice is only administered in this world then how can any amount of incarceration, even execution account for the pain some people have inflicted? Aren’t we justified in inflicting similar pain? But, then, in doing so, don’t we fall to the level of the people we long to punish?

The turmoil over appropriate justice only lasts so long as we restrict our view to our time on earth. Peace is restored when we realize that a victim can only evade justice for the term of their natural life. All the cleverness in the world will not prevent them from facing a court that is fully informed and presided over by a perfect judge who has the ability to pass the most Hellish sentence. The question is, what will we do to ensure we don’t find ourselves standing alongside them in the dock? Sure, we may never carry out any act as terrible as The Call’s serial killer, but the combined weight of everything we’ve ever done over a lifetime of rebellion will still be enough to sink us.