Greetings again from the darkness. Movie thrillers tend to fall into one of three categories: 1. Slick and stylish 2. “B”-level, yet effective 3. Not suspenseful or thrilling. This latest from director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian) is a rare blend of all three categories … all things to no people.
Halle Berry takes the lead as Jordan Turner, a veteran 911 Operator who thrives in “the Hive” – the name they give to the hub of emergency response. We quickly enough get an overview of how the center works and what’s involved for the operators … a balance of crank calls, “normal” situations and full on panic mode. One of these panic mode calls finds Jordan making a critical mistake that leads directly to the kidnapping and death of a young girl. Jordan is unable to handle the mental anguish and 6 months later we catch up with her as a Trainer.
The film kicks into gear when young Casey (Abigail Breslin) calls 911 from the trunk of a car after being kidnapped from a mall parking lot. In a move totally lacking in shock, Jordan finds herself back in the chair and offering Casey calm advice on how to handle her dangerous predicament. The back and forth between these two provides a comparison in diverse claustrophobia. Jordan is wired to the computer monitor with a headset and Casey is locked in a car trunk.
The one thing every good crime thriller needs is a worthy and interesting bad guy. Instead of the sick genius of Hannibal Lecter, we get the ticks and twitches of Michael Foster (played by Michael Eklund). This is no criminal mastermind, but rather a mentally unstable freak. Of course he is dangerous … but just not very interesting.
Despite the shortcomings, we do find ourselves pulled into the cat and mouse pursuit … which is only a chase thanks to an untraceable prepaid cell phone. Rather than continue with the basic mind games of the first two acts, the final 15 minutes turn ludicrous as Jordan escapes from the desk and heads out to do some detective work on her own. This last act is absurd and the ending provides no satisfaction or reward for our earlier commitment to the characters and story.
I will say that it is quite disconcerting to hear Little Miss Sunshine shout out “M____ F____”
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you want to see Little Miss Sunshine (Abigail Breslin) in a more grown up role (she is now almost 17) OR you would like a rare glimpse inside the 911 center
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you prefer a worthy villain and a somewhat intelligent ending to your thrillers
watch the trailer: