A Decent Thriller Held Back By A Poor Ending
The idea of two people being connected through time thanks to an unexplained supernatural occurrence is nothing new on the small screen – especially in Korea. Much like Signal, Tunnel and – more recently – the currently airing thriller Kairos, this narrative device almost feels like a trope now coming from South East Asia. In its simplest form, The Call is a twisty-turny thriller that takes this aforementioned idea and blends it with pure slasher vibes to mixed results.
On the one hand, The Call effectively builds up an air of dread-inducing atmosphere and backs that up with a pacey screenplay that never looks like letting up. There’s a lot of interesting plot developments and a couple of unexpected twists that completely change the game. On the other hand, this pacey thriller does have a couple of nasty plot holes and the final scenes of the film effectively undermine a lot of the good work in a bid to jump in for a possible cash-grab sequel. But that’s not to say this film doesn’t have its moments.
Our protagonist here is Seo-Yeon (Park Shin-Hye) who returns to her family home and finds an old phone hidden away in storage. Connecting it back up, she receives a strange call from someone asking to speak to Sun-Hee. It soon becomes apparent that this girl, Young-Sook (Jong-seo Jun), is living in the past. After convincing each other that they’re not in the same time period, both characters soon realize that their actions could affect the reality surrounding the other.
What ensues is a game of cat and mouse, as Seo-Yeon begins by helping this girl before realizing that’s probably not the best move. With time rewritten before her very eyes and reality shifting depending on the actions either of these two take, the thriller aspects eventually crescendo into two duels – both split across two time periods.
It’s a nice way to end things but unfortunately the movie takes liberties with this satisfying conclusion to bait for a sequel that probably won’t arrive – and nor should it. The original ending actually rounds things out nicely but brings niggling plot issues into whole narrative-disjointing confusion while threatening to undermine the premise.
I won’t get into spoiler territory here of course but if you do intend to watch this one, please turn the film off the minute this one fades to black and ignore the scenes that follow. If you can do this, The Call winds up that much more enjoyable and satisfying.
In fact, there’s actually quite a lot to like with this thriller – even with the wonky ending. The pulsating rock soundtrack works well to show the brewing anger and chaotic feel to many of Young-Sook’s scenes while the slick editing and smooth camera work feeds into the feel of this playing out like a big budget Korean blockbuster. At times the movie gives off the same vibes The Invisible Man did earlier this year, playing into that aforementioned cat and mouse feel in a really positive and absorbing way.
On top of that, both Park Shin-Hye and Jong-Seo Jun bring their A game to this production. Both of them give heartfelt, solid performances and given Shin-Hye’s acting in Memories Of The Alhambra last year, it’s great to see her back on screen again for this thriller.
If you’ve never experienced Korean sci-fi before this is not a bad place to start. The premise is certainly unusual and the movie manages to nail the right amount of unnerving tension across its run-time. For those more accustomed to the quirks and tropes in Asian cinema and dramas, The Call is a pacey, enjoyable thriller ruined by a final bid to shoot for a sequel and unable to quite make the most of its talented cast on-hand. It’s certainly not a bad film but it’s far from the great one it so easily could have been with a bit more editing and a thoughtful ending.