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Article by Teddy Durgin

Durgin Disconnects From "The Call"

"The Call" is a movie every film student should see. For the first hour, this is EXACTLY how you make a great Hollywood thriller. It's a tense, nail-biting 60 or so minutes that finds just the right balance between character and situation, action and reaction, punch and counter punch. I thought I was seeing something special. Man, was I wrong. The film becomes a textbook example of Screenwriting 101 Hell in its third act. First, though, the premise. Halle Berry plays Jordan, a former 9-1-1 operator who is still haunted by a call six months earlier in which a mistake on her part got a young woman killed. She is now an instructor, walking new 9-1-1 operators through the potential perils of the job. She gives them good advice: Don't get emotionally involved in any call, and don't ever promise anything to a caller in trouble. She, of course, commits both mistakes when young Casey (Abigail Breslin) calls from the trunk of some sicko's car speeding down the Los Angeles Freeway. Berry, filling in for a 9-1-1 operator who freezes, soon discovers he's the same sicko who did the killing on her watch months earlier. Film students watching this should be able to tell almost the very minute the movie goes wrong. It's when Berry leaves her 9-1-1 call center and decides to go get that killer herself. "The Call" loses all sense of logic and smarts when Berry rather abruptly goes from desk-bound operator to boots-on-the-ground rescuer. Until then, the film had moved in almost real time, effectively dramatizing a kidnapping in progress and the frantic efforts of Jordan on the other end of the line to get Casey to work with her in escaping that trunk. Along the way, there are two Good Samaritans who only make things worse. There's a gas station stop that turns tense as all heck, then quite gruesome. And there's the continued failure of the LAPD to trace Casey's prepaid cell phone. It's so sad that this movie couldn't have had a better climax and ending. Seriously, moving Jordan out of that 9-1-1 call center is only a slightly worse decision than... well, Berry's choice of hairstyles in this movie. Yikes! Wuzzup with that 'do, Halle?! Women go to salons and beauty parlors and pay hundreds of dollars, ordering their stylists to "Make me look like Halle Berry." Halle Berry goes to the salon, pays hundreds of dollars, and orders, "Make me look like Sideshow Bob from 'The Simpsons!'" I kid, I kid. Oh, and film students take note. I know the current inclination is to give your Hollywood thriller a "Wowzie!" of a final scene. But that "Wowzie!" has to make sense from a character standpoint. Even if I would have bought the silly "Silence of the Lambs"/"Saw" ripoff of a climax here, the very last scene of "The Call" is one of the worst, most nonsensical attempts to close a film with an exclamation point in recent memory. I won't give anything away, except to write that there is just no way the characters involved in this scene would make the choice they make. No way! Sigh. I guess it didn't help that, at that point, I had already disconnected from this "Call."

"The Call" is rated R for violence, language and disturbing content.

 

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