“You can be the difference between someone living and someone dying,” Halle Berry‘s character Jordan says near the beginning of this thriller. As a 911 operator, she struggles to come to terms with the latter part of the sentiment when, possibly due to her actions, a young girl is murdered. Fast forward a bit down the road and she’s now a call center instructor, helping others prepare for such situations. When a kidnapped girl (Abigail Breslin) calls 911 from the trunk of a car, however, the experienced Jordan takes over for a new operator too frazzled to know what do do. She finds herself plunged into a high stakes race against the clock that will affect her more than she realizes.
What follows is a gripping tale reminiscent of a particularly good Law and Order SVU episode I remember once watching. It’s exciting, tense, and takes some interesting curves. The drama doesn’t feel over the top or contrived despite the fact that a big part of plot relies on coincidental circumstance. It has a very real feel to it the whole time and both Berry and Breslin perform the nerve wracking parts with appropriate intensity.
While I’m sure those who are actually involved in responding to 911 calls will catch plenty of exaggerations or misrepresentations, for the average person, the way things play out feels authentic and believable. For a film that has had relatively little marketing push I was surprised, in fact, at the caliber of the overall film. It is really good. And then the third act happens.
Now some may like the direction this movie takes, but to me it took a hairpin turn, flying straight into Saw/generic slasher territory. The tone completely changes and Jordan, who has been intelligent and level headed the whole movie up to this point, does some very stupid things. Things like trying to track down the kidnapper by herself with no weapon and no training. There are also unlikely things – like finding a blatant clue laying out in the open after a team of forensic experts had combed the area. And then the very end just goes all out psycho revenge thriller.
I was all ready to give this movie high marks halfway through. The third act ruined that for me though. It has such promise. It is tense in all the right ways, entertaining, scary, interesting, and well acted. I cared about the characters, their emotions running high. And then the third act. I can’t stress enough how ridiculous the ending of this movie feels after watching the first three quarters. I still enjoyed those three quarters though – I just wish it had finished as strong.
My Rating: Three out of Five Hats
Mrs. Hamster did not attend this screening
The Call opens March 15 in 2,500 theaters