|'Closes its second act at a high point many will almost certainly not have expected it to reach'.|
Considering it comes from WWE Studios - a production company set up to push pro-wrestlers into the world of acting and which has unleashed such titles as Leprechaun: Origins and Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery upon the world - The Call emerges for much of its running time as perhaps a surprisingly respectable and efficient crime thriller. Director Brad Anderson satisfyingly rides the high concept of an extended 911 call between operator Jordan (Halle Berry) and abducted teen Casey (Abigail Breslin) for much of the second act, building effective tension without overcomplicating matters unnecessarily.
Berry in the lead does this kind of everywoman thrown into an intense situation very well, and her presence gives The Call a solid core to gravitate around. Breslin too does well, superceding Casey's stiffly clichéd introduction to create a character we genuinely care about. Alongside these two is Michael Eklund, putting in an intense and unsettling performance as kidnapper Michael Foster.
It's this central trio who are responsible for much of Anderson's success, although the director's horror-inspired approach gives the film a palpable edge. Being a relatively small-budget production coupled with an R-rating in the US allows Anderson to take some risks a bigger film with broader audience aspirations might avoid, something which regularly plays to his advantage. The director's claustrophobic shooting style means his film will regularly get under your skin. This, coupled with a screenplay from Richard D'Ovidio punctuated with invention in the right places, means The Call closes its second act at a high point many will almost certainly not have expected it to reach.
It's when you look beyond this middle section that Anderson's film becomes less impressive. The opening twenty or so minutes, whilst necessary to the overall story, are never more than perfunctory in execution. The final act is where Anderson really loses his way however. Having gone for a relatively realistic feel prior to this, the director takes an ill-advised and unexpected turn into pure film fantasy. The plot suddenly relies on Jordan and Casey acting considerably differently to their previously established characters, as well as at least one spectacular example of police incompetence.
The conclusion offered crams in some poorly conceived female empowerment, something which is not only entirely unnecessary but actually damages the far more authentic strength both Jordan and Casey have exhibited earlier on. It's not enough to completely derail The Call, but it is undoubtedly a disappointing end, especially considering how Anderson's film exceeds expectations elsewhere.
The Call is currently playing on Amazon Prime Instant Video.