Blank Noise

This film will make you rethink your concept of an emergency helpline service operator as a disembodied person.

Written by Shalini Langer | Published:April 6, 2013 1:34 am

THE CALL

DIRECTOR: Brad Anderson

Cast: Halle Berry,Abigail Breslin,Michael Eklund

Rating: **1/2

This film will make you rethink your concept of an emergency helpline service operator as a disembodied person. It will also renew your faith in Halle Berry’s ability to lift that person into a cop/detective/hero with a heart. Almost. For,just before the home stretch,The Call takes a diversion into the bizarre and,then frankly,cringe-worthy exploitation as an undressed Breslin,all of 16 years old,is put through extended and gratuitous torture at the hands of an over-the-top mad man.

Berry is Jordan,a 911 emergency service operator with the LAPD Communications Division. At “the hive” in the division,she is among the many receiving calls ranging from a bat in the house to a burglar,with reassuring calm and efficiency. One day,however,that confidence is shaken when a girl calling 911 is raped and dies at the hands of a kidnapper because of a minor wrong move made by Jordan. Blaming herself,she gets off the job,and six months later,we see her working in the training division.

While she is taking her group of rookies around the hive,a phone rings. Kelsey (Breslin) calls in to say she has been kidnapped and put in the boot of a trunk. As the hysterical girl cries she is going to be killed,the probationer at the other end fumbles in her response. Jordan takes her place instinctively.

A major part of the film now involves Kelsey in the trunk and Jordan on the phone. Director Anderson handles this well,cutting from one to the other,throwing up ingenuous solutions and then taking these away,building the tension as Jordan tries her best to rescue Kelsey and is thwarted. Meanwhile,her kidnapper (Eklund) is speeding Kelsey away to a Silence of the Lambs-esque hole.

It’s amazing what Kelsey manages to do with the things she finds in a car trunk. And it’s interesting how the film captures her there,cramped,in half-light,terrified and,by turns,hopeful.

The violence that Anderson appears to take great pleasure in comes as a disconcerting surprise. The kidnapper,who we learn is Michael — a family man with kids,and with a sister obsession — is shown to kill two men. He mauls the first one with a shovel and later stabs him with a screwdriver,while he sets the second one on fire. The camera doesn’t just

linger on them and Eklund’s sweaty,crazed expression but also freezes at the most extreme moments of a particularly violent episode.

Even that can be forgiven as Anderson’s attempt to capture Michael’s lapses of sanity. What can’t be is how he leads Jordan to her own departure from reasonable behaviour.

And that after reinforcing our faith in authorities holding “our lives in their hands”.

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