Rare is the thriller that goes as completely and utterly wrong as “The Call” does at almost precisely the one-hour mark. Which is a crying shame, because for an hour this is a riveting, by-the-book kidnapping.
Brad Anderson turns this novel procedural, a serial-killer hunt set inside L.A.’s 911 Call Center, into a real edge-of-your-seat thriller. Given Halle Berry, as a veteran 911 operator whose mistake months ago haunts her; Abigail Breslin, as a kidnapped teen on the cellphone from a darkened car trunk; and a half-decent tale of horror, guilt, problem-solving and redemption, Anderson couldn’t go far wrong.
Until he, and the movie, do.
Berry’s character, Jordan, has been struggling since her blunder led an intruder to a victim six months before. Now, on an afternoon when she’s walking recruits through training, explaining the technology to them (and to the audience), another girl is grabbed. This one has a phone and she’s calling from the trunk. Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) makes us feel her terror, mainly in her voice.
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Anderson teases out solutions and shows how the system can work in a case like this. It’s only when our Oscar-winning heroine puts down the phone and sets out to do some sleuthing of her own that “The Call” disconnects, turning into something far more generic and far less exciting.