We hear The Call and, for about three-quarters of its runtime, we answer. This is a twisty, compact thriller that completely skids off the rails before it’s through. Which is a shame, because it features Halle Berry’s best performance in a long, long time, and because director Brad Anderson (Transsiberian) mines Nancy Grace Era paranoia about sex offenders and serial killers to palpable effect.
Berry plays Jordan, a 911 emergency operator in Los Angeles, who spends her days taking call after call, most of them definitely not emergencies. There’s the lonely drunk who always dials 911 just for company. Endless reports of missing cats and other animals on the loose, and even the odd pizza order every now and then. But then Jordan gets a true emergency call from Casey (Abigail Breslin), a girl who’s been abducted at a shopping mall and is stuck in the trunk of her kidnapper’s car as he speeds out of the city. It becomes clear from details Casey gives about her assailant that it’s the same guy who mutilated and murdered another girl. A girl who also called Jordan right before she died. Jordan’s still nursing grief and regret that emergency responders weren’t able to get there in time, and so she makes it her mission not to let history repeat itself with Casey.
RELATED: WWE Wrestler Dave Bautista Will Be Green and Mean in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy
Much of The Call consists of close-up shots of Breslin, confined to the dark interior of a trunk, intercut with close-up shots of Berry talking into her hands-free phone. It demands a lot from both actors to modulate their performances so that we’re getting more from them than abject terror (from Breslin) and barely hidden terror (from Berry), and both actresses more than meet that challenge. There’s a really nice exchange early on when Jordan tries to calm down a panic-stricken Casey by asking her what her favorite movie is. (You’ll have to see the movie to find out the answer.) And their phone conversation quickly becomes an intricate display of escape artistry as Jordan walks Casey through several possible ways she can get out of the trunk, or at least signal for help. That WWE Studios (yes, that’s World Wrestling Entertainment for you) co-produced a movie about two women using their wits to combat violence from men is pretty impressive. Though maybe the fact that the WWE is a company devoted to entertainment taking place inside an enclosed ring, explains the film’s affinity for claustrophobia.
Anderson keeps upping the ante as Casey’s kidnapper encounters multiple strangers who know he’s up to no good and try to free the poor girl trapped in the trunk. But unlike Hitchcock, who would have made the scenario far more perverse by encouraging some identification with the kidnapper, in The Call he’s nothing more than a one-dimensional psycho, a bogeyman driving a Camry. This is a movie for people who love to spend their nights watching HLN and think that any stranger they encounter may possibly want to torture them to death.
Yet, The Call doesn’t become truly sensationalistic until its final 20 minutes, when Berry’s Jordan decides to leave her call-center desk, venture out into the field, and attempt the rescue of Casey herself. On her own. It’s a violation of an otherwise suspenseful parallel-editing structure that’s so effective because it’s as old as D.W. Griffith.
Once I was attending a screening of Rear Window at a Chicago repertory theater, and there was an audience member who suggested Hitchcock’s film would have been better if Jimmy Stewart had left his apartment and, broken legs be damned, chased down Raymond Burr’s Thorwald around New York in an epic mano-a-mano pursuit. Of course, that would completely ruin the concept of the movie. Maybe that audience member was Brad Anderson, because that’s exactly what happens in The Call. The movie ends up in a dead zone.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures]
You Might Also Like:15 Oscar-Winning Nude ScenesTopanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s!
Surprising many analysts, an Indian film, Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, has won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion award. The low-budget film was shot with hand-held cameras in only a month. "I wanted to make something small, but I am so very happy to say that it has become big," Nair told today's (Monday) London Times. "If we win and we happen to be women, then wonderful," she added. The best actor award went to Luigi Lo Castro for the Italian film The Light Of My Eyes (Luce Diei Mei Occhi). The best actress award went to Sandra Ceccarelli for the same film.
Monsoon Wedding, a film about an Indian bride who has second thoughts about an arranged marriage, won the coveted Golden Lion award for Best Picture at the 58th Venice Film Festival on Saturday. Directed by Mira Nair (Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala), it represents the first time a woman has won the top prize at the world's oldest film festival.
Other winners included Iranian director Babak Payami win for best director for his film, Raye Makhfi (The Secret Ballot), a story about a voting box which suddenly falls out of the sky on election day. Best actress and actor went to the Italian actors Luigi lo Cascio and Sandra Ceccarelli for their work in the Italian film Luce dei miei Occhi (Light of my Eyes).
Even though his records are selling, rapper Juvenile will most likely lose his house in Mandeville, Louisiana. The Bank of New York foreclosed on its loan on the house when Juvenile, whose real name is Terius Grey, failed to make any of the monthly $2,329 mortgage payments due since April. The $315,000 property will be seized and put up for auction.
Three former bodyguards of talk show host Rosie O'Donnell have filed suit against her, saying she recorded their conversation in her Miami home without their knowledge. Steven Rubino, Chris Delia and Ted Van Rijn claim they were fired when they confronted O'Donnell about her monitoring their office in her home. O'Donnell insists she did not know about the monitoring device and claims no wrongdoing.
Just as the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson is staging a massive comeback, two former financial advisors are filing a $25 million lawsuit against the singer. Derek Rundell and Gary "Court" Coursey are demanding payment for services rendered as well as are asking for an "accounting of the Defendant's books and records relating to any and all new ventures, financings and investments," according to a report by the Associated Press. Jackson denies owing them any money and his reps believe the two are just trying to make money off the singer's fame.
Former Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson will once again don the tight-fitting red bathing suit, this time to host a Baywatch marathon on TNN, Monday, Sept. 24. The show will run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. TNN will show repeats of the show starting Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 6-7 p.m.
Independent film producer Laura Ziskin will produce the 74th Academy Awards telecast next March, it was announced. Ziskin, whose producing credits include As Good As It Gets and Pretty Woman, will take over from Gil Cates, who has produced the show for the last decade.
The Wall Street Journal reported that actor Keanu Reeves has signed away a sizable back-end deal and valuable profit-sharing points for his two Matrix sequels to the franchise's special-effects and costume-design team. "He felt that they were the ones who made the movie and that they should participate," an unnamed movie executive told the Journal. Reeves has deferred payment before, sharing his salary to work with Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate and Gene Hackman in The Replacements.