The Call Up
The inherent flaw in any high-concept science fiction story is that the great idea at its heart must be balanced against maintaining a narrative that takes the character from A to B, or thereabouts. As a case in point, The Call Up concerns a group of l33t (that’s dedicated to you and I) videogamers brought together to play through a cutting-edge virtual reality scenario – with real stakes. Die in the game, you die in real life. It’s not a new concept, not by a long shot, but it’s one with a lot of mileage. The issue is that, while this film very competently harps on themes and polemic issues of whatever’s rotting kids’ brains these days for a good 85 of its 90 minutes, it must still have a plot, which must come to a logical end. And so the final five minutes or so obligingly offer up a moustache-twirling bad guy and a neat tying-off of loose ends to quell any unease the audience may be feeling about society at large. It’s an incongruous change of pace, entirely unnecessary, a frustrating bailout from a film that’s ultimately too scared to make a point. It makes all that’s come before seem less valuable as a consequence.
That said, the core concept of the The Call Up, though an old one, is explored in depth and presented with some elegance. It’s clear that the director, though fairly new on the scene, knows exactly what he’s doing here. The film world is permeated with curiosities that are would-be icons in their simplicity, and the setting demonstrates the remarkably artful reuse of a single set. True, this does get old after a while; the film’s necessarily cyclical nature and its inclination to deal in stereotypes mean that it plays a lot like The Raid with the martial arts taken out. But the soundtrack, naturally evoking Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy, and the cast of fairly emotive and engaging up-and-comers ensure that things remain fresh from level to level. The truth is, this is, by all estimations, a very competently made film, technically strong and with a visual style to rival some blockbusters. But, like many of its conceptual sci-fi ilk, it’s unable to “stick the landing”, instead choosing to wind up with a conventional confrontation, which leaves the viewer feeling cheated out of a real conversation.
The Call Up is released nationwide on 20th May and on demand from 23rd May 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Call Up here: