Halle Berry's latest co-star isn't a dashing leading man or a sassy girlfriend. In The Call, the nail-biting thriller hitting the big screen this week, she shares the screen with a familiar star we just can't get enough of: the phone.
The phone has done some great work in movies over the years (more on that later). This time around, it appears in various different forms as Berry's character, Jordan, tries to catch a kidnapper before he kills his latest victim, Casey (played by a suddenly very grown-up-looking Abigail Breslin, the adorable little girl from Little Miss Sunshine).
The first phone we see is Jordan's headset at the 911 operating center. She's handled plenty of fairly routine calls over her years on the lines, but then one night she receives a call she won't soon forget. A panicked young girl named Leah calls from a landline as her house is being broken into. Jordan tries to talk her through the terrifying ordeal, offering handy tips on how to thwart the bad guy. Ultimately, though, the bad guy finds Leah -- all while Jordan is still on the line. He kidnaps and eventually kills Leah. Jordan becomes unhinged and decides to hang up her 911 headset to train new 911 recruits instead.
Next, we see the phone at the mall. Casey is chilling with her sassy blonde BFF, who happens to have two cell phones -- one from her parents and one burner phone from her boyfriend. Kids today, huh? In my day we just had one old-school pager, if we were lucky! Anyway, the BFF has to leave the mall abruptly, and winds up forgetting the burner phone. Casey puts it in her pocket and hits the creepy parking garage on her own. Naturally, she gets kidnapped there. (Nothing good ever happens in creepy parking garages!)
When she comes-to in the trunk of a moving car, Casey realizes she has the burner phone and calls 911. Since this is a feature-length film and not a five-minute Rescue 911 segment, the burner phone can't be traced and thus a pretty riveting premise for a movie is born. When Casey's 911 call comes in, Jordan happens to be on the call floor and takes over the call from the frazzled rookie operator (of course!)
Berry is quite good as the shaky 911 operator trying to get her groove back, but the phone goes on to steal the rest of the flick's best scenes. Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) also has a few great scenes, but this is really the phone's movie.
With the phone enjoying another star turn in The Call, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my favorite movie phone scenes. After all, the phone is really quite underrated in Hollywood. It has done some fine work. Fine work, indeed.
1. Scream. The Scream franchise has had a lot of amazingly suspenseful phone scenes over the years that make excellent use of that super-creepy voice changer device. My favorite, though, is still the Drew Barrymore scene that opened the first Scream flick, mostly because it hadn't been established yet that these phone scenes almost always end in bloody death. Who'd have thought that they'd kill off Barrymore, the flick's biggest star, in the opening scene? I love how over the course of the phone call she goes from calmly sassing the bad guy and carrying on with her popcorn-making to freaked-the-hell out.
2. Anchorman. Ron Burgundy's anguished phone call from the "glass case of emotion" on the side of the road after an irate biker threw his beloved dog Baxter off a bridge just might be one of the best phone booth scenes ever. Paul Rudd (as Brian Fantana) is also hilarious as he tries to decipher just what Burgundy's uncontrollable wailing is all about. Hopefully Anchorman 2 gives the phone another prominent role.
3. Mean Girls. There are so many hilarious super-bitchy phone scenes in this movie, it's hard to pick just one. I think my favorite, though, is the scene with Cady and the three Plastics all on calls with each other thanks to the magic of call waiting. This Regina line from the call really captures the mean girl essence: "Cady, she's not pretty. I mean that sounds bad, but whatever. The spring fling queen is always pretty. And the crazy thing is that it should be Karen but people forget about her because she's such a slut." Ouch! The Mean Girl phone scenes have become so iconic, they've even inspired YouTube tributes. (Seriously. People are reenacting the phone scenes in home videos! Look it up if you have some time to kill .)
4. When a Stranger Calls. Before call tracing was all the rage and everyone's phone came equipped with GPS, this particular traced call freaked the heck out of moviegoers when the operator revealed that "the call is coming from inside the house." Time to panic!
5. Buried. I didn't even really like this movie, but I have to admit, the phone did a great job. The first time it vibrated inside that coffin Ryan Reynolds was buried in, it scared the bejesus out of me! Nice work phone. Good use of timing and space.
The Call opens in theaters on March 15.