REVIEW: Halle Berry’s ‘The Call’ better than expected

Drama - 2015Although commercials made The Call seem like another formulaic drama, the Halle Berry movie surprises as a gripping thriller that grabs the viewer’s attention and rarely lets go. If not for a lackluster ending, the movie would have rivaled recent thriller hits such as Taken.

Berry plays Jordan Turner, a 911 operator who once took a distressing call from a killer. The situation ended badly and left Jordan in a state of anxiety. Wishing to never take a similar call again, the operator is called into action when a girl (Abigail Breslin) has been abducted. Jordan and her team need to piece together this complex puzzle to figure out where the girl is headed in the trunk of the suspect’s car.

Berry is a great actress, someone who deservedly received an Oscar and often turns in powerful performances. Too often the material she chooses is beneath her acting abilities, but luckily The Call matches her skills. She brings determination and a real sense of dread to the tough role, and this keeps the audience hooked into the story. In fact, because of Berry’s believability, the audience will likely look the other way on a plot that sometimes feels far-fetched. Yes, this story could feasibly happen, but it’s difficult to believe a 911 operator would serve as a point of contact for such a long dilemma.

Breslin, another excellent actress, plays Casey Welson, the abducted girl who finds herself trying to talk with Jordan but stay quiet while the killer is lurking nearby. It’s an equally tough role, but the actress is able to give a realistic credibility to the part. Supporting characters are played by Morris Chestnut, Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos and Michael Eklund.

The Call would never win an award for its storyline, although screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio does his best to spin a realistic tale. However, Brad Anderson’s direction is worthy of mention. His pacing is intense, and there’s few times when the movie drops in energy. Somehow it’s able to sustain itself for the entire duration … well, almost the entire duration.

Without delving into details, the end of the film is beyond disappointing, especially since Berry and Breslin have done such a skillful job at keeping the audience’s attention. The plot simply runs out of steam, and the big reveal is not so big and doesn’t seem to match the narrative. Be mindful that The Call with enthrall and simultaneously disappoint; there’s so much going right that it’s a tragedy when it amounts to a ho-hum conclusion.

Berry, Breslin and Anderson should be commended for turning in a thriller worthy of viewing. This genre is in need of smart, powerful films; it’s too often guilty of formulaic dramas that heighten the violence. This film focuses on story and characterization; it’s not perfection, but it’s good enough.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • The Call
  • 2013
  • Directed by Brad Anderson
  • Written by Richard D’Ovidio; story by Jon Bokenkamp, Nicole D’Ovidio and Richard D’Ovidio
  • Starring Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Imperioli and Michael Eklund
  • Running time: 95 minutes
  • Rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language
  • Rating: ★★★☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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