The Call: What to Do When You Get Caught by a Mentally Unstable Dude

This isn’t so much a movie review as it is a hypothetical thought pot. In any case, spoilers may abound. Just a head’s up.

I just recently saw the movie The Call to take a break from the stress of finals and it surprisingly didn’t suck (I mean the movie, not finals. Finals just suck period.) It’s no Silence of the Lambs or Seven in the psychological depth and storytelling, but it was still surprisingly intense. Perhaps it was the setting of being in a largely empty movie theater in front of a 20′ by 30′ screen with chesticle-shaking surround sound – maybe that contributed to a lot of it. I’m sure some impact would be lost on a smaller screen with a lesser quality speaker system because a lot of this movie relies on sound; it’s called The Call. 

The Call Movie Poster

The movie revolves around a 911 emergency call center in California (don’t remember which city). The crying, breathing, emotion and panic are of the 911 caller are mostly captured through voice alone – through the speaker of a cell phone into the 911 operator’s ear. It’s pretty intense, if only in a cheap thrills kind of way. And the ending (semi-spoiler) is kind of like the ending of Saw. If you see this movie and have seen Saw, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen either, don’t worry – everyone gets to keep their limbs.

In summation about the movie itself, it surprisingly didn’t suck, so I’d say go see it if you like 90 minutes of basic emotional intensity. And Halle Berry’s pretty good in this. Her performance is very emotional, but not too overwrought and helps you really appreciate the stressful work of a 911 operator.

And now that we’ve established that I’m no Roger Ebert, here’s what really got me thinking:

What would you do?

Watching movies that involve kidnapping or breaking and entering always make me wonder: What would I do? It’s easy to yell at a supposedly vapid character in a movie not to check out the strange noise upstairs, but that’s because we’re the audience. With the help of some dramatic, crescendoing violin strings, we know the character ain’t going to find something pleasant on the other side of that door. It’s Hitchcockian. It’s dramatic irony. It’s suspense. We feel somewhat superior to the character because we can see what they cannot, even though we know we have an unfair advantage of being able to see everything the director wants us to see, while the character only sees as far as what the director tells them to see (which isn’t much, if you’ve seen enough B-grade horror flicks).

In The Call, Abigail Breslin’s character – and wow, Breslin ain’t no Little Miss Sunshine anymore! – is kidnapped by a guy with a very sad obsession over his once-beautiful sister, who wasted away from cancer. She’s grabbed, chloroformed, and thrown into a truck. When she wakes up, she dials 911 and then Halle Berry gets involved and does her thing. Through out the movie, situations kept coming up that brought back the thought “What would I do?” After the fact, you can say she could’ve elbowed the side of his head, kicked and screamed a little more, should’ve seen the guy’s actions coming from a mile away. There were so many instances in which she could have gotten away from the bastard.

But she is in the moment. She’s there. We are not. As much as we can try to sympathize and step into her shoes, we simply cannot. We’re sitting in our cushy seats, while the terribly unexpected happens to her. We’ve been expecting it ever since the trailers came out.   So while I’d like to say that I could keep a clear enough head to act rationally, to use my surroundings to maximum utility, and kill the bastard when I get the chance instead of tapping him on the head and trying to run away, I doubt that it would work out that way. Indeed, characters often do frustratingly irrational things just for the sake of advancing the plot, but sometimes those frustratingly irrational things are the reality. We aren’t perfectly tuned and calculated machines. We can’t see and know all. We are human. We can learn and practice all we can, but until the time comes when we actually need to act, how reliable are we really? Fight? Flight? Or open the door with that ominous music playing in the background?

On a semi-side note: watching The Call (and The Strangersmakes me want to take self-defense lessons.

Seen The Call? What are your thoughts on movies like it? God forbid you ever do, how do you think you’d fare in a life-threatening situation?

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