The Call is at its best when it sticks to the high-concept premise of “‘buried in a trunk”. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) plays a teen kidnapped at random by a psychopath and stowed away in the back of a Toyota Camry. By way of some convoluted plot, she has a second phone tucked away in her back pocket, and after calling the police is connected to Halle Berry’s 911 operator. It’s then a race against time as Berry tries to locate Breslin before it’s too late.
Richard D’Ovidio’s script is light on nuance and heavy with cliché, yet for the majority of the film it hardly matters. It’s great fun to see Berry guiding Breslin through various inventive attempts at escape, with the real-time filming approach adding to the increasingly desperate atmosphere. A few unnecessary subplots involving Berry’s cop boyfriend and her uncaring boss are dealt with in (thankfully) brief asides.
TV veteran Michael Eklund takes the role of the delightfully manic villain, and there’s strong support from The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli as an overly curious passerby. Add some corny dialogue and moments of eye-rolling stupidity and you’ve got a great slice of pulpy entertainment.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to lack conviction, and the over-the-top tone is abandoned for a finale that tries to take the film into more disturbing territory. It’s a 30-minute ending that draws obvious inspiration from The Silence of the Lambs, and suffers a lot by comparison.
By the standards of Halle Berry’s famously chequered post-Oscar career, The Call will be a solid enough entry. Much like 2003’s Phone Booth, it takes a promising Hitchcock-inspired concept but doesn’t quite know how to deliver on it. However, director Brad Anderson marshals the proceedings valiantly throughout, and for the most part, The Call fulfils its function as a fast-paced guilty pleasure.
The Call is released nationwide on 20th September 2013.
Watch the trailer for The Call here: