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Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:04 am

The Call not worth taking

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If there’s one thing I realized while watching Brad Anderson’s The Call, it’s that a documentary on 911 call centers and the people who work there would probably make for a fascinating film. A look at the triumphs and tragedies they experience, the stress they deal with and how the system works would probably help the public appreciate a service we take for granted far too often.

It would be far better than this turkey of a thriller, which though it contains some moments of genuine suspense, ultimately drowns in its own stupidity. Lazy writing, wooden acting and unrealistic circumstances undermine this feature. Star Halle Berry shows once more that the quality of her performance depends largely on the strength of the director she’s acting for. The actress is Jordan Turner, a 911 operator who’s taken to training perspective dispatchers after a traumatic experience with a call she took from a young woman in danger that ended badly. However, she’s forced back into duty when a rookie dispatcher panics while taking a call from Casey (Abigail Breslin), a kidnap victim who finds herself locked in the trunk of a moving car.

The movie becomes a race against the clock as Turner attempts to gather and relay as much information as possible so that the police can find Casey before she meets a grisly end. The film is at its best as it runs through the various procedures these workers enact when a situation such as this falls in their laps. Equally tense and enlightening are the exchanges between Turner and Casey, as the former talks her through some common sense actions that will hopefully alert those around her of her plight.

However, the film goes south, especially during its third act, when Richard D’Ovidio’s script starts to throw one stupid circumstance after another at the viewer. A murder in Los Angeles in broad daylight goes unnoticed and Turner goes from being smart and capable to suddenly being a reckless dullard just so the film can reach a decent running time. And while I liked the sharp-edged, female empowerment conclusion, the narrative path required to reach that point felt far too manipulative to be believed.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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