This dispatcher’s take on “The Call”

I finally made it to my local cinema to check out The Call and find out if Halle Berry is fit to wear the headset.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is … this whole blog.

Jordan, an insanely lithe and pert-nosed LAPD dispatcher (played by Berry) is a 911 veteran who can dispatch a husband/wife shooting call with the same calm indifference as she would announce a noise complaint. At least that is the case until she picks up the prowler in progress call that catapults her into the rising action and thrilling plot! This is the call that changes Jordan’s whole … well gets her super upset. Fast.


Halle can haz stress ball. Abigail (inset) in a rare moment when she’s not screaming.

(Berry’s shift from large and in charge to frenzied and clinging to her stress ball for dear life is almost comically dramatic. She’s smooth. She’s chill. She’s freaking the fuck out!)

She is so upset, she makes a mistake that leads the prowler to his prey. After learning that the teenage victim was not just kidnapped but also killed, Jordan retreats from the pressure of calltaking and hides out for six months in the training department. We meet her again on the night of ANOTHER FATEFUL SHIFT when a similar prowler call sucks her back in like Al Pacino into the third Godfather movie.

And she is back at it. This time, the victim is “Casey” played by a bleach-blonded Abigail Breslin. (Breslin would most certainly win the Oscar for “longest continuous frantic shrieking” if such an award existed.) Casey is trapped in her kidnapper’s trunk and headed for his Silence-of-the-Lambs-esque lair. Scary, kids. (Member? “It puts the lotion on its skin…”)

I bet you think at this point that I didn’t like the movie. Negative. I actually do. Because, for all its cheesiness, The Call gets the most important thing right (to me). It gets the job.

Which leads us to my favorite-est part of The Call, the holy-shit, nail-chewing several-minute sequence in which Jordan masterfully keeps Casey calm and helps her find new and awesome ways to help attract attention to the kidnapper’s car so police can locate it. The kidnapper scenario is mercifully rare, but in varying degrees, this is the kind of thing that can land in a real-life dispatcher’s lap at any moment. I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen dispatchers ROCK those calls. And they rarely get the fanfare they deserve.

So, I don’t generally like thrillers, but it turns out that I do like dispatcher thrillers. Especially when they make us look like the bad-ass em-effers that we sometimes have to be.

I should also note that the setting, known as “the hive” (LAPD’s own NORAD-like 911 communications center, named for its constant, insistent buzzing) is spot-on. The varying dispatcher personalities and the types of calls (from the suicidal with the gun to the bored old man who only calls when drunk — which is every night) also ring true.

In fact there were many “hell yes” moments in this movie, from Jordan’s bathroom breakdown to her 90s hair and those night-shift bags under her eyes, to the nervous rookie, who explains to a group of naïve students that one of the hardest parts of the job is simply not knowing what happens to callers after they disconnect. Amen.

Of course because Hollywood has no impulse control, The Call gets all wonky and impossible and “she did NOT just do that” toward the very end. We watch, mouths-agape as Jordan and Casey do some seriously crazy shit while wearing only a tank top and a training bra, respectively.

The Call (2013) Jordan Turner (Halle Berry)

Dispatcher goes vigilante, Breslin goes topless, and “The Call” goes completely off the rails.

Still …

Thank you, Hollywood, for setting foot in a dispatch center to see what one really looks like. Thank you for at least trying to ugly Halle Berry down a little bit. Thank you for putting a cape on us and giving us super-powers!

“You’re just an operator,” our villain tells Jordan during their insanely implausible final encounter, “You can’t do this!”

Well in Hollywood, we can. And it’s uber fun to watch.




  1. Pam Alexander says:

    Thanks so much for this review. I am looking forward to seeing it myself. Being an E-911 dispatcher myself, I wondered if it would be too cheesy. This makes me want to go see it even more now.
    Thanks for the job you do as well….

Speak Your Mind