Few films are able to capture the sheer terror and shock of abduction and the subsequent nail-biting anticipation of following it through to a criminal’s apprehension. “The Call” manages at least one of these aspects well – the entire setup is fascinating, delving into the process of solving a kidnapping as well as what it takes mentally to be both a 911 operator and a victim. Berry and Breslin both turn in performances that are punctually believable and impassioned. It’s an absolutely absorbing premise that goes to great efforts to exaggerate the suspense; unfortunately, the storytellers run out of ideas approximately three-quarters into the film and flounder deplorably over an ending that is utterly unexpectedly bad.
Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is an LAPD 911 Communications Division officer who fumbles a high-profile case. She makes a poor judgment call by redialing the number of a burglary victim, which alerts the intruder of Leah Templeton’s (Evie Louise Thompson) hiding spot – resulting in her mutilation and murder. Six months later, and still overwrought with guilt, Jordan transfers to a training unit where she can temporarily stay away from actually answering the phones. But when teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) hysterically dials 9-1-1 from inside the trunk of a car, Jordan finds herself back in the hornet’s nest as she attempts to console the next victim of Leah’s killer.
The attention to detail to recreate a realistic scenario is admirable. Elements of the 911 call center are introduced, including the “Quiet Room” for alleviating stress after a disconcerting interaction, the separate workstations with multiple monitors for data input and communications between various departments (it’s resemblance to a honeycomb of bees earns it the nickname “The Hive), and the pressures of remaining unemotional, distant, and calm. Jordan explains her various rules to students, which she inevitably breaks herself – such as making promises that can’t be kept and avoiding attachment to the caller. It has got to be one of the most stressful jobs imaginable, especially when the lack of closure is elucidated. The worst part is “not knowing how it all ends,” explains Turner; once the call has ended, the police take over and the results are often completely unknown.
The realism only helps the film throughout the nerve-wracking transportation of Welson. The final destination reveals a hugely problematic, false illustration of police procedures – several so glaring they won’t be simply shrugged off by audiences. Although stealing a few ideas from “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Seven,” this new thriller can’t save itself from a few outrageously pitiful concepts. While the close-ups and editing work to heighten the suspense, and a bit of classic emotional manipulation helps intensify the situation, the climax of “The Call” monstrously destroys the sensibility, the aftermath of panic, and rational dread the first part of the film worked so effectively to create. Jordan abruptly engages in every activity her extensive training and ratiocination would prevent her from doing. Both female characters are reduced to horror movie stereotypes that make all the expected mistakes; and then as if to exemplify the perception of unobtainable closure, the movie just ceases.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)