The Call, starring Halle Berry, gets straight down to business. It’s a promising thriller that hits the ground running, never wasting any time setting up its intriguing premise. The film opens in the emergency call center of the Los Angeles Police Department, where dozens of operators manning the phone lines must calm down panicked callers while simultaneously assigning officers to their cases.

Berry stars as Jordan, an operator on the phone with a young girl reporting a break-in. When the call is disconnected, Jordan calls back, and the ringing phone leads to the girl’s kidnapping and murder. Blaming herself for the incident, a still-visibly-scarred Jordan retires from the call floor and instead becomes an instructor for the department, training new operators.

Six months after that incident, Jordan finds herself back on the line with Casey (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin), a teenager who’s been abducted from a shopping mall and is calling from the boot of the car she’s been shoved into. Because she’s using a prepaid phone, her location is harder to trace, thereby drawing out the tension.

Keeping you on the edge for the most part, the film’s best bits are the ones in which Jordan guides Casey through possible escape plans. Director Brad Anderson’s action has a messy, urgent feel to it, and the pacing is just right. Despite the improbability of the situation, it’s hard not to find yourself hooked.

It’s a shame then that the film nosedives in the final act, when Jordan suddenly switches from a committed emergency operator to an action heroine. The clichés begin piling up once the action shifts from the Los Angeles freeways to an underground lair. What started off as a tense race against time quickly degenerates into a silly revenge story, and even fine actresses like Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin can’t save the film from its own contrived climax.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for The Call. It’s not entirely disappointing, but you can’t help thinking just how much better it could’ve been.

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