Toss logic aside and this 'Call' is worth the roaming charge - WNCN: News, Weather

Toss logic aside and this 'Call' is worth the roaming charge

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If anyone is going to enjoy director Brad Anderson's "The Call" they must first toss logic completely out the window. This isn't the smartest film and the plot details are not going to hold up well under scrutiny. It plays like a diet version of "The Silence of the Lambs": it has half the brain, half the talent and half the scares.

I don't say this to insult the film because that is not a fair comparison. "Silence" is one of the best thrillers I've ever seen. It's got a great villain, a conflicted and admirable heroin and phenomenal editing.

"The Call" has a good villain, an admirable heroin (they force the conflicted part) and competent editing. Although the comparison isn't fair to "The Call," it's one that everyone is going to make because the films have too many similar elements to not compare them.

We meet Jordan (Halle Berry), a 9-1-1 emergency operator who stole Carrot Top's haircut, as she takes a call from a terrified teenager dealing with a home invader. This is a thriller so the call doesn't go very well for Jordan (or the teen).

As a stand-alone scene it would effective, with a couple predictable but well-timed scares, but it's an awful way to start the film because most thrillers don't need exposition. The first 15 minutes of "The Call" set up the chase and give Jordan a back story, but the chase doesn't need a set-up and Jordan's back story is irrelevant. It's best, in a thriller like this, to jump straight into the action and answer questions later.

The downtime between the opening call and the kidnapping of Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), while only about 10 minutes, almost sinks the entire film. I heard a couple yawns and had to contain one myself.

Once the kidnapped Casey calls Jordan from the trunk of a car, however, the film quickly develops into a surprisingly intense thriller. It moves at a good pace, takes a couple unexpected turns and delivers a hell of a finale (and a perfect ending that John Carpenter is going to envy). The final 15 minutes are about as perfect as the first 15 are flawed.

Michael Eklund gives a great performance as the villain, creating a character as complex and interesting as he is terrifying. What's most impressive is that he does it without much help from the script, which doesn't provide strong enough reasons for the character to make such vile decisions. Still, Eklund provides us with a smart villain who seems capable of just about anything.

Breslin is very effective as the victim, especially since she downplays her emotions in scenes where others tend to overact. It helps that she's starred in a dozen films already (not bad for a 16-year-old), but she proves here that she's a talented actress who has come a long, long way since first stealing scenes as the adorable germophobe in "Signs."

The only real issue I had during the final 45 minutes was the number of tells in the camera work. Anderson and cinematographer Tom Yatsko make a lot of good choices that heighten suspense but also make the mistake of moving or tilting the camera right before a scare, effectively telling the audience that something is about to happen in the process. Scary moments are simply less scary when you get a warning.

Looking back I feel conflicted about "The Call." It's good and it's quite scary, but I can't help but wonder how much better it could have been with a lot more logic and less predictable camera work to match the spectacular ending.

"The Call" is rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language.

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