A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Call is a gripping but very violent thriller about a heroic 911 operator trying to rescue a kidnapped teen girl. The girl is punched, beaten, stripped to her bra, and briefly tortured. Her age isn't specifically mentioned in the movie, but actress Abigail Breslin is 16. There are also scenes in which characters are stabbed with a screwdriver and lit on fire. Other aspects of the movie are fairly mild, including language, with just a few uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as some mild sexual innuendo involving teens (and one grown-up kiss). Several of the 911 calls heard on the soundtrack describe acts of violence, including drug use. Ultimately, because all of the movie's intense, serial killer-related violence centers around a teen victim, this movie isn't recommended for any but the most mature viewers.
What's the story?
Jordan (Halle Berry) is a very good 911 operator ... until she gets a call from a teen girl reporting a prowler. Jordan makes a small error of judgment, and the girl ends up killed. Six months later, a shaken Jordan is working away from the phones, teaching trainees the ropes. But when a call from a frantic kidnapped girl, Casey (Abigail Breslin), comes in, Jordan overcomes her fear and takes over. She uses all her skills and training to try to find Casey -- who's locked in the trunk of a car -- before it's too late. But, to Jordan's horror, she eventually realizes that the kidnapper is the same man who killed the other girl.
Is it any good?
THE CALL is a high-concept thriller that certainly has the potential to self-destruct, especially when it dives into totally implausible territory during its final stretch. But genre specialist Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist, Transsiberian) gives it a taut, low-budget energy that keeps it pulsing throughout its entire running time. It helps that both Berry and Breslin give tense, emotionally raw performances, inviting viewers to really care about their characters.
Anderson occasionally delves into moments of pure horror, complete with odd angles and off-kilter rhythms. Specifically, the serial killer elements seem fairly strong for a thriller of this type, but they don't ruin the overall effect. Indeed, the movie is so effectively constructed that it recalls enormous hits of decades past like Fatal Attraction and The Silence of the Lambs. If only Berry's character had seen these movies, she could have sharpened up the ending a bit.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Call's intense violence. How did it affect you? Do you think the story could have been told with milder violence?
Why do you think there are so many movies (and other types of media) about serial killers? Why are we so fascinated by them?
Do you feel that the teen characters were sexualized in any way? If so, do you feel this was acceptable or unacceptable? Why?
What's the movie's take on revenge? Do you think it's realistic? Justifiable?
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.