Blallywood Film Review: The Call
Since 9/11, there has been an emphasis on honoring the difficult work of first-responders. These everyday heroes risk life and limb for perfect strangers all in the name of a helping hand. Perhaps the most difficult element of this type of work is the necessity to remain emotionally detached. First-responders have to keep a clear head, aligning with fearless logic when most of us would succumb to emotional distress. What happens when a critical mistake results in loss of life and the work becomes personal? This thematic concept is explored in Halle Berry’s latest film, The Call.
In this film Berry plays a 9-1-1 dispatcher named Jordan, with an average life. She takes her job seriously and does it well; and she’s dating a handsome police officer. When she makes a critical error while helping a young girl escape an intruder, she can’t seem to shake the agonizing guilt. When six months later, in an eerie coincidence, she finds herself on a call with that same intruder, she takes matters into her own hands and takes down the sadistic murderer with the help of his victim.
Players include Berry, Morris Chestnut as Jordan’s love interest, David Otunga (Jennifer Hudson’s fiancé) as his partner, Michael Eklund as the serial killer, and an all-grown-up Abigail Breslin (from Little Miss Sunshine) as the abducted Casey. All doing their part to keep the film’s rather thin script afloat, the performances are sound, believable, and fully realized. Standouts include Breslin as the relatable unassuming teenager fighting for her life and Michael Eklund as a twisted abductor. His charismatic and violent approach is raw and stunning. However, the perfection personified Halle Berry carries the film. She captures agony, terror, fear, and hope simultaneously in a revelatory way. As always, she’s a thrill to watch.
As a point of observation, this film adheres to an all too familiar set of expectations regarding abductions in this country. Abductions involve a frail and docile young white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. We all know that isn’t true. Countless brown young women go missing each year and hardly receive the media attention their cases deserve. There is also just a modicum of the “magical negro” complex that has plagued many movies over the years- the idea that the helpful Negroes come together to assist the distressed white victim. A film like this, with an African-American A-list actor, could have used this opportunity to shed light on the less-than typical abductor/abdutee dynamic. However, in film, the easiest and most efficient choice to make is the one that is most easily recognizable such that the audience will buy into it.
Here’s hoping you never find yourself with the misfortune of having to dial 9-1-1, but if you do, imagine Halle Berry on the other end of the line. B-.