“The Call”
I’m not sure what kind of rescuing, calming, almost know-it-all personality would be required for a 911 operator, especially in a huge city like L.A., where the emergencies are literally happening all the time. Yeah, sure, they would train you, and try to prepare you for the many varied calls you would receive. Yes, sometimes the calls would be spurious, even pranks. Yes, maybe there would be a convict in prison who calls regularly just because he has no one else to talk to, or anyone that might carry on a little conversation with him even if they realized who he was. Sure, there are plenty of calls that result in sending police or fire dispatch immediately, and apparently these L.A. operators have the capacity to do that, because they are an arm of the police department.
In fact, Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) happens to have a boyfriend, Paul Phillips (Morris Chestnut) who’s on the police force, and we’re calmly setting up the crisis by showing them nuzzling outside during her break, her with the flirt-giggles, and him with the cooing in the ear. Very sweet.
But what happens to Jordan when she returns to work chills everyone to the bone. There’s a 911 call from an hysterical woman who’s crying about an intruder entering her house. Jordan tells her to run upstairs and lock the door, but the lock isn’t working, so she’s hiding under the bed, Jordan still on the line, but when the connection gets turned off, Jordan instinctively redials, which, you guessed it, alerts the intruder. And after he does his dirty deeds of kidnapping and murdering and disfiguring and leaving the corpse to be found by the authorities, it’s all over the news. And it’s all Jordan can do to hold it together. She takes a leave of absence from work, then returns as an instructor. One of the eager new learners asks her why she doesn’t take calls any more, and we feel her pain all over again.
But then another crisis develops in the “hive,” as they dub the call center (because usually it’s buzzing with activity from the “worker bees”). An hysterical woman is calling from the trunk of a car, because she’s been abducted from the parking garage of a mall. The young employee taking the call seems overwhelmed, and admits she doesn’t know what to do. Jordan takes over, and her touring newbies are ushered out. Jordan tries to calm down the frantic caller and get her to do something constructive, like kick out the back taillight and stick her hand out and wave. Anything to draw someone else’s attention. And, of course, soon we learn that it’s the same guy that still haunts Jordan’s nightmares.
Michael Eklund plays Michael Foster, the creepy bad guy, with a forceful combination of barely-controlled fury and psychotic quiescence, as if this isn’t any more traumatic than pumping gas. The chase scene is elongated because the girl, Casey (Abigail Breslin) has one of those prepaid phones, at the suggestion of her mall-shopping friend, who says their parents can’t have it traced as easily. Well, that seems to be true. But neither can the police department trace it, and Casey could use some serious help about now.
How personal does Jordan take this? Is she able to prevent another tragedy? Will she be a basket case herself after this crisis? Yes, the camera loves Halle Berry, anyway, and we cannot help but watch her. But this time there’s a riveting plot that carries us along for an emotional roller coaster, where you’re still feeling the jarring effects even after the ride is over.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas