Suspense thrillers have been very hit and miss lately, and it's mainly due to lack of build. If a thriller starts at the highest point, the suspense can become overwhelming and tiring too quickly, and has nowhere to go but down.
This is the painful truth with The Call. While the movie's suspense is surprisingly good for a title seemingly more fit for straight-to-video, the film reaches it's maximum peek far too soon, and gets old before the film is even half way finished, making it seem amateurish at best.
Sixth months after blaming herself for getting a caller killed, 911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) finds it's better to teach the newcomers at the emergency call center hive than take calls herself anymore. However, when young Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is kidnapped, calling 911 from the truck of her captor's car, Jordan takes it upon herself to take the emergency call and ensure Casey is found safely. With the help of policeman boyfriend Paul (Morris Chestnut) and all the police records at her fingertips, Jordan races against time to make sure she can save Casey from another lunatic kidnapper.
Director Brad Anderson (The Machinist) and writer Richard D'Ovidio (2001's Thirteen Ghosts) attempt to make a decent thriller, but come a little short. D'Ovidio's script is certainly more than adequate at times, providing actual thrills and a lot of high tension that definitely grips the audience. However, adding in Anderson's poor direction and Tom Yatsko's bizarre freeze-frame cinematography, the film quickly runs out of gas before the credits roll.
Unfortunately, The Call had many factors working against it from the start. The plot is almost a complete reversal of 2004's Cellular (which featured a man getting a distress call on his cell phone from a kidnapped woman in an attic somewhere), and Halle Berry's choice in projects lately has been less-than-stellar -- not to mention this was a strange film for WWE Studios to produce (yes, that WWE). The only thing that truly saves this film from being unbearable is Abigail Breslin's amazing performance, which shows a wonderful transition into more adult roles. However, Berry's performance is rather sub-standard, lacking the charm that made her Hollywood's go-to actress several years prior, and this film is certainly not going to help her get back on a decent career path any time soon.
FINAL VERDICT: The Call offers some decent thrills, but lack of decent performances, borderline plagiarism, and giving it all it has to offer too early on kills any chance of this film being a decent option for thrill-seekers. Not surprising since this film seemed like a perfect candidate for a straight-to-video release, which happened to Halle Berry's Dark Tide last year, and The Call will have just as much impact on moviegoers' memories as the former.