It’s Die Hard in a call centre. No, wait. It’s Speed in a car boot, and Halle Berry is Keanu, Abigail Breslin is Sandra Bullock, and the mobile phone is Jeff Daniels. Or something.
What’s for sure is that The Call is a marvel of a high camp thriller, destined to be lovingly parodied and ironically adored for its myriad preposterous moments and, especially, Berry’s central turn as 911 operator Jordan Turner.
By turns demonstrating a blend of feminine sensitivity and iron-buttocked willpower of an inspirational kind scarcely seen on any screen since Cheryl Cole’s seminal first season as an X-Factor judge, Jordan even manages to step up to the plate and succeed where the entire LAPD cannot – and all the while sporting great-looking, if rather large, hair.
Just imagine what this dynamo could achieve if she didn’t spend 95% of her existence trapped in a call centre.
Having been left traumatised when a home invasion emergency call ends with teenager Leah (Evie Thompson) being kidnapped and killed, Jordan steps back from the phone line frontline, in favour of training new recruits.
But when another teen, Casey (Breslin) is snatched, and all her colleagues turn soft and useless as jelly that’s been left out of the fridge too long, there’s only one agglutination of flesh, bone and guts striding the face of planet Earth who’s capable of stepping in and offering the perfect mix of practical advice, steely motivation and girly chat to a young woman who’s in extreme danger of being imminently butchered.
After all, when Halle’s on the other end of the line, every last one of your worries and cares just seem to melt away, don’t they?
“If you can avoid getting turned into a rug, kid, we’re gonna go watch Bridesmaids together!”
(This is only a slight paraphrase of the actual script.)
Yes, there’s an obvious issue with The Call; namely that its main character is, for the majority of the runtime, doing little other than sitting there, delivering pearls of wisdom down a headset mic. Okay, so she occasionally manages to share a meaningful gaze with one of her supporting cast of co-workers. Or shed a fragile tear that says “I might be a bad-ass, but I am also woman.”
And director Brad Anderson (The Machinist) does his best to forestall any feeling of stasis, by shooting the call centre scenes like J.J. Abrams does the bits on the Enterprise’s bridge in Into Darkness, with the camera constantly on the prowl, as restless as a kid all hepped up on Vimto.
However, having said all that, stuck behind a desk and a bank of monitors is what Jordan essentially is. This means that whenever anything particularly dramatic happens to Casey during her transit from the shopping mall where she’s first nabbed to the nutty hideout of her nefarious assailant (more on him in just a second…), our heroine and leading lady is missing – as conspicuously uninvolved as a certain highly expensive Spanish striker who plies his trade for a particular west London football team.
We want more Halle! We demand more Halle! Although if more Halle we cannot have, then the main villain of The Call is a super-sub of a screen-gobbler. Played by Michael Eklund, he’s a pervert, a serial killer, and he’s also thicker than Elon Musk’s wallet.
Just how thick? Only dense enough that during his kidnap attempt, an occasion during which you might imagine he’d want to remain fairly alert, he decides to listen to some pumping choons at high volume, thereby allowing his teen victim to gab away to 911 like it’s the One Direction premium rate fan-line, as well as kick his taillight out so she can wave to passing motorists.
The rotter’s backstory is nuttier still than his moronic modus operandi, but to reveal more would be to spoil some of the demented delights The Call has in store for you. It’s a funny, rather fabulous film – even if it doesn’t really mean to be.
The Call is released in the UK on 20 September