The Call (DVD Review/400+)




by Richard Rey


Call centers are the worst. I remember applying for a job at one in Idaho, nailing the meet and greet and then skipping out on the actual interview once I saw the looks of boredom plastered on the faces of the employees at that particular establishment. Until viewing this movie, I didn’t realize that the most exciting call centers and the most stressed out telemarketers are none other than the operators who answer 9-11 calls day in and day out. What a gig, especially if you’re working for the LAPD like veteran dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball).

The suspense-thriller takes us into ‘The Hive’ – the area where these poor ‘worker bees’ sit at desks with headsets, taking call after call and deciphering what the hell is going on in order to respond to crimes that range anywhere from petty theft to first-degree murder, or, on occasion, a call dialed by the local schlub for a quick chat. Either way, this is not a job you want to have, but for the self-proclaimed emotionally detached Jordan, it’s all she knows. And, unfortunately for us, this is the most that we’ll get to know of the psychological effects that this sort of high-stress career can have on a person since our attention is diverted to only one of the 188 million emergency calls made annually.

When Jordan responds to a whimpering teenage girl, Leah (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine), whose been kidnapped by one of those underwritten cliché psychopaths that Hollywood loves to put up on the big screen, her life will never be the same – and the blaringly obvious music tunes us into that. And just like that, rather than being taken down the less predictable path involving the deep desensitization that takes place in Jordan’s life as a responder, we’re dragged along frame by frame for what could be the most predictable wide release all year. Suspense/thriller is an unsuitable genre for this film considering 90% of the action takes place while the victim is in the trunk of a vehicle with the potential savior stuck miles away in a drabby-though-dressed-up office cubicle. So how quickly can things go wrong in a movie with this much bore potential? Quicker than you can dial the three digits upon which the movie is based.

Indeed, the potentially high stakes are thwarted by screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio’s choice to write himself and, in turn, director Brad Anderson into the back of a compact vehicle for far too much of the film’s 94 minute run time –  which, frankly, feels much less generous than it looks on paper. However clever the Ambert Alert tricks and tactics may be, the underlying problem is that you can only film a trunk so many times before it gets old – like really, rusty mildew old. Sparking comparisons to the 2004 release Cellular which holds a similar premise, the former wins the battle of creative edge on atmosphere alone. Between the movie’s predictability and its deeply cornered premise, The Call hardly has a chance to wiggle its way out of its own self-destruction. The lack of chemistry between the two lead ladies should come as little surprise since both were probably saying lines into a cell phone on different days of the shoot. In fact, that’s the big problem – none of this really comes as a surprise. Surprise, surprise.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Considering its three month turn-around time since its March theatrical release, this DVD has considerably nice aspects, featuring 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen that’s clean and even for a film that sought a hand-held ground in reality feel. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, available in both English and French, provides the somewhat lopsided score a much needed lift for thrills and chills. Subtitles are provided in both aforementioned languages as well as in Spanish and English for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The title menu includes the following options: Play Movie, Scene Selections, Languages and Special Features.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Previews for upcoming Blu-Ray/DVD Sony releases include Evil Dead, Dead Man Down, Last Exorcism Part II, House of Cards Season One and Magic Magic. Filmmaker and cast commentary features the talented Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, and director Brad Anderson. The featurette Emergency Procedures: Making the Film shows the passion behind the NPR call-center study inspired motion picture and gives voice to the filmmakers and all parties involved.

OVERALL: For fans of the film, this DVD/Ultraviolet release will be a welcoming addition to their movie library – especially due to the special features that include Halle Berry’s desire to feel out a character whose profession drew special interest to the Academy Award-winning actress.  However, you may want to invest in the BluRay if you’d like even more bonus material since that includes additional footage and featurettes.

MPAA: Rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language

Run time: 94 min

Genre: Suspense, Thriller

Director: Brad Anderson

Writer: Richard D’Ovidio (screenplay)

Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund

Theatrical Release: March 15, 2013 (TriStar Pictures)

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Release: June 25, 2013 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)


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