Notwithstanding a ridiculous final act that seemingly belongs to a different film, The Call is a slick, nail-biting thriller that propels us close to the edge of our seats.
Director Brad Anderson navigated emotionally richer terrain on the big screen in his earlier films, The Machinist and Transsiberian. However, recent stints behind the camera on TV series Boardwalk Empire, Alcatraz and The Killing serve him well here and he cranks up tension with aplomb. The middle section is genuinely exhilarating, ricocheting between emergency services and a kidnap victim, trapped in the claustrophobic boot of her abductor’s car.
In a tense opening sequence, terrified teenager Leah Templeton (Evie Thompson) dials 911 to report an intruder in her family home. Skilled operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) coolly advises Leah to lock herself in a room and remain on the line. Unfortunately, Jordan finds herself on the line with the intruder.
Six months later, the same madman, Michael Foster (Michael Eklund), abducts a blonde teenager, Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin).
The Call speed-dials suspense for the opening hour, cross cutting between jittery Jordan and Casey, who gradually bond through the magic of mobile communication.
Berry is solid in an undemanding lead role while Breslin sobs, tugging our heartstrings when her teenager accepts she will die and asks Jordan to record a message for her mother: ‘I love you, please don’t ever forget me.’
Once Eklund’s villain reaches his sanctuary and prepares to enact his twisted plan, screenwriter D’Ovidio cold calls for originality for his bloody denouement - but he only connects with a limp homage to Silence Of The Lambs replete with Berry as Jodie Foster.