The Call (2013)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: Brad Anderson

Writers: Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio, Jon Bokenkamp

Starring: Halle Berry, Evie Thompson, Abigail Breslin

Rating: ★★★★

The Call is a surprisingly tense and thrilling watch which thrives off a fantastically written and unique storyline. Slightly overlooked when released in 2013 The Call certainly deserves a lot more recognition and credit than it has been given. Halle Berry giving a solid performance alongside Abigail Breslin adds to Brad Anderson’s good direction, making for a very entertaining experience.

The story surrounds Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) an experienced 911 operator but after making a bad error which leads to a shocking incident she is doubtful of her future and ability. However when an abduction call takes centre stage in the operating “hive” room Jordan has no choice but to step up to the occasion and take charge. On the other end of the phone is Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) a young teenage girl who’s been thrown into the back of a man’s car, trapped inside the boot she soon realises her kidnapper is more dangerous than first thought and Jordan is her only link between death and survival. Jordan uses all her experience and quick thinking to protect Casey but being on the end of the phone there’s only so much she can do, but she will not stop until justice is served.

What amazed me so much about The Call was its somewhat unique insight into what happens between 911 operators and their callers along with what happens within the centre itself. It was eye-opening to say the least showing the emotional impact that operators have to go through every time they answer a call which is actually tragic. It was also a different perspective to follow a “crime thriller” story from, knowing that our only connection to Casey was through the phone made it even tenser to watch. How thrilling it was to watch was a massive highlight of the film, leaving you constantly intrigued.

The acting for me was another stand-out, Halle Berry a famous name but one that has not been too seen in recent years gives a great performance that really dramatized the events occurring. Her co-star however Abigail Breslin was even better, a young actress who has been making a name for herself appearing in August: Osage County most recently shows again signs of a promising career.  Anderson’s directing too was at times outstanding along with the cinematography by Tom Yatsko; one scene that blew me away was when we saw our antagonist beat a man to death with a shovel, with the actions being shown through a gap between a passing truck, it was a quick flash and was so effective. It was just a shame that the majority of scenes were not as amazing and eye-catching but average.

The things that stop The Call being a really standout film mostly happen in the final act as the film comes to its climax. It slips into the conventional horror ending where things become too unrealistic to perceive and plot devices are far too obvious. The way Halle Berry’s Jordan is portrayed too is a downfall, her character like most in films goes from being reactive to proactive however in this case it was unnecessary and the transition was not at all disguised. She becomes clumsy and takes risks when at the beginning she is calm, composed and successful. The ending however was a real surprise and although it can be seen as too on the nose or out of the blue I think it just about worked and the writers pulled it off.

The Call thrives of a very successful storyline which is surprisingly thrilling and tense, also being well captured and portrayed by the two lead characters. Although it isn’t an award winning film to shout about I still think it was a very good film which is easily watchable and enjoyable. In a year where many released disappointed, The Call deserved much more credit as it was for one of the most intriguing thrillers to watch being totally entertaining too.

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August Osage County (2014)

Genre: Drama

Director: John Wells

Writer: Tracy Letts

Starring: Meryl Streep, Dermot Mulroney, Julia Roberts

Rating: ★★★½

August Osage County is a strange film, but that’s not a criticism of Tracy Letts’ creation.  A more than fair attempt to display the “dysfunctional family” stereotype that’s rarely mastered in films is achieved and is boosted by some dark humour but more importantly an amazing set of performances. August Osage County isn’t exactly the most heart-warming release, far from if I’m honest, but it has some creditable aspects that make for an enjoyable and entertaining two hours of watching.

The film surrounds the more than dysfunctional Weston family and more importantly the struggling, pain-filled women within. When Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) the pill-addicted tongue-lashing mother awakes to find her husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) has up and left, she calls for the help of the family and her three daughters to return to their Oklahoma home. With all the family under one roof it only leads to a slaughter of arguments and insults as every member clashes and locks horns, revealing secrets, shameful truths and causing extreme upset.  All three daughters have relationship problems of their own and their problematic mother only seems to worsen the mess. Julia Roberts plays Barbara Weston the oldest out of the sisters, the one that stands up against her mother’s crazed antics.  It is between Violet and Barbara that the conflict mainly arises, which soon leads to sisters Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) being more than involved. As the arguments never stop, under extreme anger and tension a few secrets and events unfold which could cause the Weston family to be completely ruined at a time they need each other most.

It is a story that is attempted many times, the typical problematic family however August Osage County seems to work. Its success mainly relies on the performances and characters played by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts who retrospectively have been credited with Oscar Nominations for Best Supporting and Lead Actress. The pair together have many battles which result in the occasional laugh and speechless reaction not only from the other family members but the audience. Although the two leads provide great performances so do the rest of the supporting cast. The actors playing the neglected controlled husbands amongst the family provide good humour and keep the film entertaining at times, Benedict Cumberbatch as Little Charles alongside Ewan Mcgregor as Bill Fordham and Dermot Mulroney as Steve Huberbrecht give solid performances.  However it is fair to say at times without the performances and all-star cast August Osage County would fail.

The film although at times comedic is meant to be very serious in many aspects, dealing with very serious and sensitive topics. It wasn’t going to be a feel-good film when the story follows an alcoholic leaving a pill-addicted women starting with the lines “Life is very long”. However it captures some element of realism in how every family have their disagreements and secrets albeit in this occasion they are very extreme. Despite the strong cast and a more than intriguing story Osage County does have it criticisms, at times it was frustrating to not follow a certain perspective and look on events, with the many storylines switching and crossing on a number of occasion it does come across overwhelming. The ending too I felt was very weak, with at least an extra half hour of story to follow up on which could have been shown if previous unnecessary scenes were cut.  Nevertheless there was enough for it to be classed entertaining and worth-while.

Although maybe not a “must-see” August Osage County is certainly a good film, with highlights coming from two fantastic performances from both Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. It is a film that relies strongly on its cast although at times director John Wells’ craft was very well executed. It’s sure to entertain, earn a few laughs but most importantly it is sure to be an enjoyable viewing.