wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)
Brad ‘The Machinist’ Anderson’s latest film, The Call, is a fast-paced thriller that thrills only in bits, and ends quite weakly. The setting and characters of the film are interesting, but in trying too hard, Anderson ultimately fails in dishing out a gripping thriller. The Call is not unwatchable, but is also not even close to being a must-watch.Read more
How many times have we watched an American film, where a character dials 911 and cops come bursting through the door soon after? While scores of films have shown cops to be the heroes, often laying their lives for the sake of justice, very rarely has anyone ever a peeked into the lives of the people who actually answer that 911 call. On the surface, it seems like any other call centre – continuous calls, mostly silly, with a caller who is almost always unreasonably agitated. But then, on a lot of calls, also hinge matters of life and death. Anyone who can read, can fix your problem with your cellular operator or your toaster. But a 911 call can be a different story altogether.
It is perhaps this aspect of Brad Anderson’s The Call that is most fascinating, because you get to realize the worth of anonymous heroes, who fade into oblivion after answering the call that probably saved lives. Starting off by humanizing these anonymous voices, then moving on to what is actually quite a taut thriller before ultimately descending into near-absurdity when it tries to move in for the kill, The Call is an uneven film that engages you often, but ends up leaving you quite disappointed as you walk out.
Halle Berry plays Jordan, a seasoned 911 operator who is damn good at her job. One of her calls, however, doesn’t go quite as expected. Brad Anderson knows how to craft a thriller, that much you have to concede. And what he seems to enjoy a lot is lacing his thriller with just that slight tinge of a horror element. His 2004 film is almost seminal in this regard, frequently flitting the boundaries between thriller and horror with utmost ease. He tries something similar with The Call, though toning down the horror element quite a bit, making it very subtle and visceral. Full marks to him for trying, but the end result isn’t nearly as thrilling or horrifying as he had hoped.
The big problem with the film lies in the last half hour of the film. The most important aspect of writing and directing a thriller is knowing when the thrill has reached a peak, and easing the audience off that peak with assuredness. The disadvantage that an out-and-out thriller has is that the audience invariably catches up, making it hard to leave them on a high, unlike other genres. Also, the very premise of the last half hour is absurd, because it goes against the fundamental concept that the film starts off with - the life of a 911 operator.
Halle Berry, in a role that she can sleepwalk through, expectedly does a fair job. The rest of the cast pretty much has to stand by and watch her do her thing. Michael Eklund hams it up a bit as a psychopath, overdoing the crazy quite often. However, and this was quite a surprise, I quite liked how his character was written. The reason for him being the way he is, intrigued me quite a bit. His character has a gamut of emotions and layers to it, and is revealed only bit by bit, making it an unexpected facet in this genre of film. Very rarely does a film attempt this. But this eventually also adds to why the climax of the film doesn’t work; it also goes against the fundamental concept of his character.
With its crisp 94-minute runtime and brisk pace, The Call often engages you, but it ultimately disappoints. It is never unwatchable, but it just never gets as compelling as it could have been, with the absurd climax being the final nail in the coffin.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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