By Van Roberts
Emergency 911 operators may cringe at Halle Berry’s conduct in the contrived but harrowing serial killer crime thriller “The Call.” “The Machinist” director Brad Anderson and “Exit Wounds” scenarist Richard D’Ovidio manage to generate considerable white-knuckled tension and suspense during the first two thirds of this exciting but familiar R-rated epic. A homicidal psycho abducts a helpless teenage girl from a Los Angeles mall, locks her in the trunk of a stolen car, and determines to elude the authorities. Although she manages to alert 911 about her predicament, the poor girl in the trunk is talking on a disposable cell phone. Meaning, the 911 system cannot establish her whereabouts since they cannot trace the phone. Despite their impressive equipment on the ground and in the air, neither the 911 call center nor the Los Angeles Police have any luck rescuing the damsel-in-distress. Most contemporary films, particularly action-oriented procedurals, shun realism for the dramatic impact of ‘what-if’ make-believe. Flaunting realism from the start, “The Call” (**1/2 OUT OF ****) exploits the physical situation for everything it’s worth. Initially, the ups and downs of the victim contending with a psychotic maniac who has no qualms about murder make this movie gripping stuff. Unfortunately, Anderson and D’Ovidio have nowhere to go after the chase ends. The remainder of “The Call” degenerates into an utterly improbable potboiler like the Amanda Seyfried movie “Gone.” Our heroine violates every rule she has taught her 911 trainees. Not only does she break her own rules, but also she ignores her superior’s orders. During those final 20 minutes up leading up to a twist ending, the heroine behaves like a stereotypical, imperiled dame. She does the kind of idiotic things that a victim would do in a standard-issue serial killer thriller.
Jordan Turner (Oscar winning Halle Berry of “Monster’s Ball”) is a seasoned 911 operator. She responds to a call early on involving a home invasion. Jordan converses with a young girl alone in the house while she dispatches a police cruiser. The desperate girl takes refuge under an upstairs bed like the heroine in “Taken” while the intruder prowls the premises. Satisfied nobody is home, the intruder prepares to depart. Jordan loses her connection with the girl and calls her back. The ring tone of the cell phone alerts the intruder, and he finds the girl. He speaks to our heroine and assures her that the girl is as good as dead. Later, the police find the body of the unfortunate girl, and it isn’t a pretty sight. Jordan suffers from nightmares about the incident, and her boyfriend, LA.P.D. Officer Paul Phillips (Morris Chestnut of “Half-Past Dead”), can do nothing to relieve her anxiety. Jordan remembers the killer’s icy voice with chilling familiarity. Six months after this tragic incident, Jordan is showing rookies how to deal with all kinds of emergency callers. Predictably, Jordan finds herself drawn back into the fray when a green 911 operator cannot handle a call from a frenzied girl.
Anderson and company set up the initial situation well enough. Jordan sought to intervene on behalf of the first girl, but she had no way to do it. Indeed, she feels guilty about ringing the teen back because the invader found her as a result of the cell phone ringing. Eventually, after she recognizes the voice of the killer during the second incident, she refuses to go home and relax.
Imagine the ordeal of Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin of “Zombieland”) when she is kidnapped in broad daylight from a popular shopping mall and thrown in the trunk of a car. No sooner does she wind up confined in the boot of the vehicle than she finds a disposable cell phone that her girlfriend accidentally left behind at the mall. Casey contacts 911, and she goes crazy on the phone until Jordan calms her down. Before long she has Casey smash out a tail light and pour paint out of the hole. Jordan alerts L.A.P.D. authorities in a helicopter with the make and model of the vehicle that the serial killer is driving. These constitute some of the most excruciating moments in “The Call.” Another concerned but misguided motorist intervenes on Casey’s behalf, but he has no success. The L.A.P.D. block off the area where they believe the serial killer is working, but they find nothing. Back at the 911 call center, Jordan listens to her conversation with the psycho and decides to investigate on her own like Nancy Drew. At this point, “The Call” takes a preposterous turn. Nevertheless, despite a bad hairdo, Hale Berry delivers a hypnotic performance as the conscience-stricken 911 operator, while Abigail Breslin holds her on in the trunk. As the enigmatic villain, actor Michael Eklund dominates the action when he is front and center. “The Call” ends up being the kind of movie where audiences talk back to the screen as if they can warn the heroine about her reckless behavior. Indeed, she makes the mistake that all serial killer heroines make when she believes several firm raps on the back of the head will keep the villain down for the count. Altogether, “The Call” qualifies as an above-average thriller, even when our well-meaning heroine gets in over her head. The filmmakers compensate for the Nancy Drew interlude with an abrupt surprise ending that will make you applaud the actions of our heroines.
An Important Notice from TracFone Wireless
TracFone plays an important role in the movie, “The Call”.
TracFone Wireless, Inc. is featured in the “The Call,” a movie where a TracFone helps to save a girl’s life. TracFone is a great way to keep your kids or other loved ones safe. We think the movie helps to make that point.
All prepaid and contract cellphones can be located during an emergency.
“The Call” tells a very exciting story, but it has taken certain creative liberties to make the movie more entertaining. The movie implies that pre-paid phones are less trackable than non-prepaid phones. In reality, all TracFones – including the one shown in “The Call” – are Enhanced 911 (E911) compliant, as required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which means they can be located by police and other emergency responders in the same manner as comparable contract phones.
The Federal Trade Commission’s E-911 rules apply to all wireless service providers.
The FCC’s wireless Enhanced 911 rules seek to improve the effectiveness and reliability of wireless 911 services by providing 911 dispatchers with additional information on wireless 911 calls. Please see the FCC’s Web site for more details.
TracFone is a great choice for your and your loved ones.
You can have the safety and security of a TracFone for less than $7 a month. TracFone customers get great coverage on the best networks in America. In fact, Consumer Reports rates TracFone #1 among prepaid phone services for Customer Satisfaction.0