About 911 times better than I thought it would be.
I will admit I was not expecting much from this movie. Halle Berry has never before been on my list of actresses who are so engaging that I need to see whatever she stars in. As far as I was concerned all she was known for would be a really bad Storm from X-Men and a really, really, awfully super bad Catwoman in Catwoman. I have been told she did some good work in Monsters Ball but I was so annoyed about Catwoman that even the promise of seeing her topless could not entice me to watch that film.(X-Men image courtesy of the Marvel Comic T Shirt category)
In a sense I’m actually annoyed at this film for not sucking more because now I have to take Halle Berry seriously as an actress. I won’t say she made the movie happen but she was in every scene and played her roll very well. Of course in almost every scene she was either stressed out or freaked out and for all I know that might be her natural state of being, making her role very easy. Since I liked her for the most part in Cloud Atlas I guess she is starting to unbury her needle for me. She will have to do a lot more great movies to undo Catwoman, but this is a great step in the right direction.
What made this movie good in my mind is the fact that the director Brad Anderson (Transiberian, Session 9, the Machinist (awesome movie BTW)) managed to take a pretty formulaic story and have my friend and I gripping our armrests in true tension for most of the film. Having seen so many bad movies the part of my brain that actually connects with the films and feels such rarities as excitement or worry about the characters has shriveled up and more or less almost died, kept alive only through the occasional episode of the Walking Dead. This film however managed to connect to that dejected little clump of brain cells and throw a wild fiesta for them.
That’s not to say the film is perfect. Like I said, the story is really formulaic and about as simple and straightforward as riding a subway through a long tunnel. Towards the end the film shifted gears from a cool CSI style crime drama into an episode of Scooby Doo meets Saw, but for the most part it kept the tension levels high.
The story. Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, X-Men, New Year’s Eve) plays Jordan Turner, a 911 dispatch operator working for the LAPD. It is established early on that she is very competent and experienced. A young girl calls in to report a man breaking into the house. She hides under the bed but when the phone disconnects Jordan calls her back, alerting the intruder as to where she is. The girl is kidnapped and later turns up in a shallow grave. Flash forward six months and Jordan is now in charge of training new operators and no longer works calls. One of her trainees gets a call from another girl (Abigail Breslin-Zombieland, Little Miss Sunshine, Signs) who is being kidnapped and is trapped in the trunk of the kidnappers car.
At that point the tension ramps up dramatically. The phone the girl is using is disposable making tracing it very hard. Jordan takes over the call and uses a series of really cool and interesting police tactics to try to find the car. You get to see a lot of neat internal stuff that I hope is actually accurate and not just made up for Hollywood. The girl kicks out a taillight and waves at another car. She pours a can of paint out and tries to leave a trail. The kidnapper (Michael Eklund-the Watchmen, 88 Minutes, the Divide) gets waived down by another car. He kills the guy and switches the car.
The story progresses this way, with the police doing all they can to track down the kidnapper. Eventually the trail goes cold at an old cabin his family owns. Eventually the story changes lanes from really cool to kinda stupid when Jordan opts to Scooby Doo it out herself. Things get creepier but dumber at the same time.
The stars. As much as it galls me to say this with the taste of Catwoman in my mouth I have to give props to Halle Berry for a very credible performance. One star. Abagail Breslin was pretty good too. One star. I’m not sure how best to describe this, but the fact that the movie kept me engaged as well as it did was awesome. Three stars. Pacing was dead on perfect for the story and genre. One star. Seeing how the 911 dispatch service operates was very cool. One star. Overall a very exciting time. One star. Total: eight stars.
The black holes. The story was stupid simple and so formulaic that had it not been for the tension it would have felt like filling out your tax return. One black hole. The villain was every sociopathic stereotype possible and extremely one dimensional. They tried to give him some back story but for the most part it didn’t really work. One black hole. The Third Act was lifted straight out from Saw. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A total of five stars. I’m as surprised as you are. I rolled into this film sharpening my canines in anticipation of delivering a brutal mauling to a crap movie and was pleasantly shocked. I know I am enjoying a movie when I stop writing the review in my head and just watch. This film got some bad reviews from other people but I think it worth seeing. Date movie? If you are in a relationship and know she likes serial killers go for it. Otherwise not a good one. Some of this gets pretty creepy. Bathroom break? The scene where Jordan finally leaves the dispatch building and goes driving out is pretty unnecessary. Go for it. Honestly if you just pretended they caught the guy when they raided his cabin you might enjoy the movie more anyway.
Thanks for reading. I’m actually in town this week so expect to see a couple more reviews this weekend. I might have to go to LA to deal with some stupid crap Sunday night. Feel free to post comments here for this movie or my review. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Thanks again and have a great day. Talk to you soon.