Warning!! Mild spoilers for anyone who can’t already assume what happens at the end of The Call!!
The last thing I expected to do while watching The Call was look over to my girlfriend and sarcastically exclaim, “America, fuck yeah!” But as Halle Berry stood triumphantly in the film’s final moments, the camera couldn’t help framing her with an American flag waving behind her. This film couldn’t help doing a lot of things. For the third act in what would have otherwise been a solid thriller, it dispensed all logic in favor of crowd-pleasing catharsis.
I mostly just laughed at it, though.
It’s unfortunate, because the first two thirds of The Call offer up solid, by-the-numbers entertainment. It isn’t exactly cinema-worthy, but this thriller would pass for a better episode of just about any crime drama on TV. While it’s the typical police-chase-kidnapping-murderer plot we’ve seen a million times, it’s made more interesting by funneling the action through a 911 call center.
Halle Berry plays an operator named Jordan who ends up taking two kidnapping calls for the same killer. In her attempts to keep these people alive over the phone we see how little control she has over the situation. In most calls, the officers arrive on scene, the call disconnects, and the operator is left without closure. It’s a job that requires some detachment, but Jordan has trouble removing emotion from the picture.
That theme of not knowing the end result, of needing to do your best again and again even when you don’t get that closure, is a compelling one. Had the film followed through with that, we may have been discussing a must-see.
The Call opts instead to toss all realism to the wind. Jordan leaves the call center to do the basic police work that any competent officer would have already been doing, and then manages to track down the killer on her own. For the sake of heroism and catharsis, The Call ignores logic completely. Then, when it seems like things can’t get dumber, a last minute twist turns it into a left-field slasher film revenge scenario. It’s really, really unnecessary.
That villain is pretty creepy, at least. For all his weird droopy-faced mugging, he has a genuinely unsettling backstory. He certainly deserves his comeuppance, but I think The Call would have been a much creepier and more effective movie had it left the 911 operator at her desk, without the ability to truly take control of the situation.
As it stands it feels like the writers took the cheap route, writing an implausible scenario just because it would be gratifying. I wish writers didn’t do this. Stories are much more interesting when the plot gets trapped in a corner and the writer needs to craft a logical way out. That’s good story telling, The Call isn’t.