Without the benefit of heart-pounding foot chases or the ring of gunfire chasing the hero into shadows, it is difficult to produce a convincing, edge-of-your-seat thriller. The Call seems to have no problems capturing the very definition of what it means to be enticed into the ins and out of an intelligent thriller.  

The operation and demands of a 911 call center takes dedication and complete focus. Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) never realized just how much the job could affect a person until six months ago – when she made a distracted fatal error on a 911 call. After the call is disconnected, she re-dialed resulting in the kidnapping and death of a young teenage girl. Now, she is merely a teacher, the one who trains new 911 operators – a job that she feels “safe” in. Until now. Another call comes in that is taken by a newbie employee without the ability to properly handle the seriousness of the call prompting Jordan to take over. It’s from a blonde-haired teenage girl named Casey (Abigail Breslin). She was grabbed in the parking structure of a mall and stuffed into a trunk. Her phone is a disposable cell meaning the call center cannot track it to dispatch officers which leaves only Jordan as Casey’s one chance at escaping her captor. As Jordan’s past haunts her – in a case that mimics the one of six months past, Casey’s pleas for help ignite something inside Jordan; she’ll do anything to see her safely returned.  

Trailers of this film leave the impression that this will be just another good thriller in the tradition of Taken or any number of other cinematic productions that have come before it. After seeing it promoted in front of another movie, I thought it looked good and subsequently forgot about it. It wasn’t until my cousin called wanting to see something that I again remembered wanting to see this one. The common thread connecting this to the “average” film in the thriller genre is a kidnapping that is inter-woven into the lead character’s redemption. What is unique about the script is how gripping the movie is. It pulls us in within the first ten minutes and keeps pace throughout the entire run time.  

Instead of pulling viewer’s along on an adrenaline rush through narrow streets where bullets buzz past the protagonist, this thriller is more intellectual. Over half of the time we spend with the frightened Casey, compelling us to hope for a resolution that is anything but what continues to run through our minds and we “live” Casey’s paralyzing fear through Jordan’s point of view. Equally terrifying is young Casey’s perspective but where the audience “sees” what is happening to Casey, Jordan is blind to it. Instead of visuals, she can only speculate as to what is going on while hearing the screams of the victim and when she again hears the click on the other end of the line that is the moment when it begins clear how emotionally invested we are in this. 

If there is one thing the movie skimps on, it’s the character development which is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent. With such a concept, it didn’t bother me as a person in the audience. I was far too white-knuckled in an emotional battle rather than worrying over what motivated the killer to snatch Casey; a back-story that we are given drops hints yet never fully explains. Boasting a stupendous cast – including Breslin’s fabulous, realistic performance and Berry’s veteran talent molding Jordan into a surprisingly savvy woman (save for some ill decisions nearer the end! All of which directly contradict our impression of her until then) – there is little room for error despite the lack of “good” backgrounds on character’s whom we never really come to understand. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the movie is the lack of “graphic” or gory moments. It had the potential to be a kind of horror film and instead never abuses its rating from a violent standpoint even though it definitely needed that R-rating, it still seemed considerate of the boundaries.  

This is perhaps why the ending still isn’t quite what I’d have liked. On the one hand, I liked it because throughout you expect the worse, but I cannot help feeling as if it was too revenge fueled leaving some viewers with a bad taste. From the perspective of the protagonist, it’s easily accepted and we get a little rush just realizing that she has her justice – and I admit that is what we wish to think especially as someone who has little sympathy for the antagonist. The Call is interesting. It has a great suspense direction and a story that is surprisingly better than average.  

(Parental review: In an R-rated thriller, there are six documented F-words, I caught about four. Other minor profanities are present including sh*t, h*ll plus abuses of God’s name. A man scalps a girl [off-screen] and begins to make incisions to do the same to another [she has a small pool of blood on her forehead as a result]. A man rips off a girl’s shirt, leaving her in her bra [for several scenes] and he also sets a man on fire as well as hit another with a shovel and repeatedly stabs him; elsewhere people are nearly drowned, stabbed and a sequence of events take place in a “torture” underground hall of rooms. There is some innuendo laced conversation [including one or two crude sexual remarks from a teen] as well as a photo of siblings kissing on the lips. There are a couple of minor drug references.)