A thrilling ride for all, but not so sure about the ending
Thriller/Action. Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, Michael Imperioli, Roma Maffia, Evie Thompson. Director: Brad Anderson.
Notwithstanding a ridiculous final act that seemingly belongs to a different film, The Call is a slick, nail-biting thriller that propels us satisfyingly close to the edge of our seats.
Director Brad Anderson navigated emotionally richer terrain on the big screen in his earlier films, The Machinist and Transsiberian. However, recent stints behind the camera on TV series Boardwalk Empire, Alcatraz and The Killing serve him well here and he cranks up tension with aplomb.
The middle section is genuinely exhilarating, ricocheting between emergency services and a kidnap victim, trapped in the claustrophobic boot of her abductor's car.
Screenwriter Richard D'Ovidio takes a staple of the genre – an imperilled heroine, who loses her clothes for no compelling reason – as the seed for his sadistic game of cat and mouse between a 911 call centre operator and a serial killer with a penchant for blonde girls.
In a tense opening sequence, terrified teenager Leah Templeton (Evie Thompson) dials 911 to report an intruder in her family home. Skilled operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) coolly advises Leah to lock herself in a room and remain on the line. Unfortunately, the plan goes tragically awry and Jordan finds herself on the line with the intruder.
"I suggest you leave that house before you do something you regret," she barks.
"It's already done," growls the man, establishing a snappy catchphrase, which is recycled at two pivotal moments later in the film.
Leah is slain and Jordan hangs up her headset.
Six months later, the same madman, Michael Foster (Michael Eklund), abducts a blonde teenager, Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), from a shopping mall.
Jordan happens to be in the call centre "hive" when Casey's distressed telephone call comes through and the operator takes charge, determined to make amends for Leah.
Haunted by the words of her police officer father – "You might be the difference between somebody living and somebody dying" – Jordan provides Casey with ingenious suggestions for attracting attention from passing motorists.
When one driver (Michael Imperioli) takes note, it seems Casey's tearful prayers could be answered...
The Call speed-dials suspense for the opening hour, cross cutting between jittery Jordan and hysterical Casey, who gradually bond through the magic of mobile communication.
Romance/Drama. Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Charles Edwards, Cas Anvar, Juliet Stevenson, Art Malik. Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel.
In life, Diana, Princess Of Wales divided opinion, so it's fitting that Oliver Hirschbiegel's drama, based on Kate Snell's contentious book Diana: Her Last Love, should have stirred controversy before a single frame has unspooled on the big screen. Dr Hasnat Khan, the subject of the picture, publicly denounced Diana as a fiction, while a pre-recorded radio interview with star Naomi Watts ended abruptly with the suggestion that she walked out on DJ Simon Mayo.
Tittle tattle aside, Diana is a trashy made-for-TV movie, blessed with an award-winning German director and an Oscar-nominated lead actress, whose talents are well and truly squandered. Both are undone by Stephen Jeffrey's clumsy script while Watts also lacks sexual chemistry with co-star Naveen Andrews, making a mockery of the tears and tantrums when the central relationship ultimately breaks down.
"I'll never be happy again, I just know it," whimpers Diana (Watts) to gal pal Sonia (Juliet Stevenson). If the public image of the princess was elegance and poise, behind the scenes in Hirschbiegel's film she is emotionally cold and calculating, tipping off a tabloid photographer to her whereabouts so he can splash pictures of her on a yacht with Dodi Fayed (Can Anvar) and pique the jealousy of Dr Khan (Andrews).
Pathetic attempts to win Khan back take a leaf out of the book of Bridget Jones – minus the excessive smoking – including scenes of Diana attempting different dialects in the hope the doctor will take her call.
"Yes, I've been a mad bitch, yes I've been a stalker and yes I put on the clumsiest Liverpool accent to get your attention!" she concedes in one of many scenes that beggar belief.
An excessive two-hour running time will test the patience of even the most ardent and devoted Diana fan.
Adapted from a series of comics, R.I.P.D. (an acronym for Rest In Peace Department) is an otherworldly action adventure in a similar vein to Men in Black, which pairs a grizzled veteran and a gung-ho newcomer in a hunt for earthbound monsters.
The trajectory of the central relationship from fractiousness to do-or-die camaraderie is achingly familiar. So too is Ryan Reynolds's wise-cracking schtick as the cocksure new pretender, while Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges chews limp dialogue like tobacco as a 19th century US Marshal whose moral compass is misaligned with the modern world.
"In my day, I bought love by the hour," he grizzles with a twinkle in his eye.
While Men in Black enhanced the buddy comedy with outrageous action set pieces, Robert Schwentke's film is woefully underpowered in the visual effects department. The souls – known affectionately as "Deados" – take on the guise of humans but when they are unmasked by the R.I.P.D., they metamorphose into hideously deformed creatures that have to be shot in the head in order to move into the afterlife and restore the cosmic balance. It's an excuse for a miasma of unrealistic digital splatter, which fails to get the pulse racing.
R.I.P.D. is almost as lifeless as the creatures Roy and Nick have to apprehend. Screen chemistry between the leads fails to convince, punchlines fall flat and the numerous pursuits of mouldering prey are lacklustre.
Meanwhile, Schwentke's unimaginative direction is the final nail in the film's coffin.