In The Call, Halle Berry plays a veteran 911 operator who inadvertently causes the murder of a young girl. Six months later, a similar abduction situation occurs, and Jordan Turner finds herself desperately trying not to repeat her earlier foul up. This inside – maybe? – look at the workings of a 911 operations room is never really dull but also never really gels. It’s a string of badly formed cliches and tropes that’s so magnificently botched that not even the earnest Berry can lift it from the bottom of the garbage heap.
This is one of those many movies in which some ordinary person finds himself or herself in an extraordinary situation and then finds the will and the skills to overcome all odds. This hardly ever happens in real life, but one can suspend some disbelief for movies, certainly. Troubling, though, is when your Everyday Joe suddenly seems to develop formerly unknown talents, such as the strength of a body builder, the intelligence and cleverness of a detective, and so on. Once your character begins behaving out of character, the relatability vanishes, and you’re left with yet another dopey, flimsy excuse for a thriller.
The main conflict is that a man has abducted a teen (Abigail Breslin), locked her in his trunk, and sped away. The girl does have her phone, of course, and calls 911. Now the intrepid Jordan must talk her through her situation. To a point, Jordan’s solutions are reasonable and are definitely necessary, as the phone is actually a burner and is untraceable. So no one knows where the car is or where it’s heading.
The preview gives away the entire plot, save the ending, although there are parts in the preview that don’t actually make it into the movie. That’s why you can’t trust the trailers. They just make stuff up that’s shot just to entice you.
Coincidentally, the burned-out (from the earlier call) Jordan has a cop for a boyfriend (Morris Chestnut), and naturally when she calls for backup he’s the man on the scene. I guess writer Richard D’Ovidio thought there needed to be an emotional connection for Jordan; she’s not married, there are no little Jordans running around.
In the theater in which I saw this movie, there was a lot of hooting and hollering and laughing, and I’m pretty sure this was not a comedy. There were the standard “don’t go in there” remarks and other statements that essentially underline how predictable and nauseatingly dumb the plot was.
Berry really tries her best, even with a somewhat odd haircut – maybe to make her look less glamorous and more like a regular person. She’s grim, steely, passionate. She tells people not to get emotionally involved with the people who call 911, but how can she not do so with the abducted Casey? [Sidenote: through most of the movie, poor Breslin necessarily speaks in a shaky, almost hysterical voice - and yet Berry can somehow make out everything she says and plugs it into her super-knowledgable computer. Helpful!] Getting emotionally involved leads to burnout, but even when Jordan is told to go home and take it easy, she takes it upon herself to pursue things to their conclusion.
One thought about that conclusion. It’s senseless and grim. Yes, we all have a preconceived notion about how things will go down, but let’s assume your notion isn’t what happens. You may be surprised by the ending here, but what doesn’t track is that Jordan’s behavior is almost completely devoid of logic and goes against the grain of her character as we saw her for the first 90 minutes or so. It’s almost an embarrassing ending, and it’s definitely one of Berry’s worst films this side of Gothika.
The Call: *