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18° & CLOUDY ON WEDNESDAY 16 OCTOBER IN SYDNEY
By Tom Glasson
May 13, 2013
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The Call

A simple but tense thriller told from the perspective of kidnap victim and 911-responder.
By Tom Glasson
May 13, 2013
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Reviewer's tip: do not watch the trailer for this movie. Don't watch any of them; not the official preview, not the early release one and certainly not the teaser. Just put them all into Quicktime quarantine. Not since...well, not since anything has a film's trailer given away every single key moment like this one did. After seeing it just once, I went into this kidnap/serial killer movie knowing that it was about a kidnapping serial killer (apologies), as well as knowing every plot beat from start to finish, right down to who dies and even how.

That said, somehow that scarcely had an impact. Remarkably, The Call managed to sustain a level of tension not endured since the climax of Argo. In fact, it had the tension dialled up so high, audience members were yelling at the screen. Not because it was rubbish (see: The Room) but because the need for some sort of release was essential. This was sympathetic yelling; the kind of "no No NO!" designed to dissuade a character from doing that thing, going into that dark room or saying that stupid thing when they shouldn't. To look around the cinema was to see clenched fists, stamping feet and strained faces peering through cracks between fingers. I may have punched the wall at one point.

In its simplest terms, The Call follows Halle Berry as a 911 responder with yet another impossibly bad haircut. She works in 'the Hive', an enormous room to which every LA-based 911 call is directed. Haunted by a past mistake, Berry is reluctantly thrust back into the role when a young girl (Abigail Breslin) is snatched in broad daylight and dials 911 from the boot of the kidnapper's car. What follows is a fast-paced game of cat and mouse during which the advantage constantly swings back and forth between kidnapper and victim. It's refreshing to see both police and victim show initiative (when usually they frustrate in a movie like this), and the focus on the responder's role offers an fascinating insight into what's traditionally an incidental role.

Which brings us to the ending. Specifically, the last 120 seconds or so. The Call is not a great movie, and it definitely leans a little too heavily on gore instead of relying on its cast's impressive performances. But it's not terrible either. Given much of its dialogue takes place between two people on a phone, it's impressive how well it draws you in, and yet — whatever credit its earned, however much goodwill it accrues — all of that is burned in the films' final moments. The ending is so ridiculous, so out of place and so utterly unnecessary that all of a sudden there were shouts again, only this time they were 100 percent The Room fodder. Someone may even have yelled, "Oh hi, stupid ending!" It's not enough to render The Call a must-miss, but it single-handedly knocks a semi-decent movie down to an average one.

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