Compassionate Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is a veteran Los Angeles 911 dispatcher who’s still recovering from a traumatic incident – six months ago – when she was unable to save a teenage girl from the clutches of a psychopathic murderer. Working as an instructor, she shows new recruits around the vast, high-tech Emergency Call Center that’s known as The Hive, as the same “911: what is your emergency?” greeting is methodically repeated at every desk.
Suddenly, as she is explaining the stressful pace and high pressure of the job, Jordan realizes that an inexperienced operator is unable to cope with a panicked call from Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), a teenager who has been abducted from the parking garage of a shopping mall by a stranger (Michael Eklund) and is trapped in the trunk of a moving car. Reluctantly, Jordan takes over the headset, introducing herself and reassuring Casey that she’s there and will stay with her on the phone until help arrives. That’s the setup of a cat-and-mouse game that gets progressively more bizarre as Jordan calmly cajoles Casey to try to outwit her menacing captor by attracting the attention of passers-by. Then Jordan realizes that Casey’s kidnapper is the same maniacal madman she encountered six months earlier.
Unevenly scripted as a psychological thriller by Richard D’Ovidio (“Exit Wounds”), it is, nevertheless, tautly directed with a palpable sense of urgency by Brad Anderson (“Transsiberian,” “The Machinist,” “Session 9”). And the increasing suspense and chilling tension is heightened by John Debney’s feverish musical score. For the first two-thirds of the narrative, Halle Berry (Oscar-winner for “Monster’s Ball”) radiates intelligence, while Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) makes a smooth transition into vulnerable adolescence. In addition, they’re aided considerably by Morris Chestnut and David Otunga as supportive police officers.
Problem is: the jeopardy/horror falls apart in the third act with the final, vengeful twist completely straining credulity.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Call” is an intense yet shallow 6 – with an absurd ending that utterly disconnects.