Notwithstanding a ridiculous final act that seemingly belongs to a different film, ‘The Call’ is a slick, nail-biting thriller that propels us satisfyingly close to the edge of our seats.
Director Brad Anderson navigated emotionally richer terrain on the big screen in his earlier films, ‘The Machinist’ and ‘Transsiberian’.
The middle section is genuinely exhilarating, ricocheting between emergency services and a kidnap victim trapped in the claustrophobic boot of her abductor’s car.
Screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio takes a staple of the genre - an imperilled heroine who loses her clothes for no compelling reason - as the seed for his sadistic game of cat and mouse between a 911 call centre operator and a serial killer with a penchant for blonde girls.
In a tense opening sequence, terrified teenager Leah Templeton (Evie Thompson) dials 911 to report an intruder in her family home. Skilled operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) coolly advises Leah to lock herself in a room and remain on the line.
Unfortunately, the plan goes tragically awry and Jordan finds herself on the line with the intruder.
Leah is slain and Jordan hangs up her headset.
Six months later the same madman, Michael Foster (Michael Eklund), abducts a blonde teenager, Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), from a shopping mall.
Jordan happens to be in the call centre ‘hive’ when Casey’s distressed telephone call comes through and the operator takes charge, determined to make amends for Leah.
Haunted by the words of her police officer father, Jordan provides Casey with ingenious suggestions for attracting attention from passing motorists.
When one driver (Michael Imperioli) takes note, it seems Casey’s tearful prayers could be answered...
‘The Call’ speed-dials suspense for the opening hour, cross-cutting between jittery Jordan and hysterical Casey, who gradually bond through the magic of mobile communication.
Berry is solid in an undemanding lead role while Breslin sobs with gusto, tugging our heartstrings.
Once Eklund’s villain reaches his sanctuary and prepares to enact his twisted plan, screenwriter D’Ovidio cold calls for originality - but he only connects with a limp homage to ‘Silence Of The Lambs’.