Published on December 7th, 2020 | by Blake Morrow0
The Call is a South Korean time travel thriller that’s full of energy and manages to innovate a well-worn subgenre. Check it out on Netflix.
The latest example of South Korea’s cinematic prowess, Lee Chung-hyun’s time travel thriller The Call was recently released on Netflix. This pulse pounding movie brings a ton of innovation to a sci-fi genre that has been done to death. An endlessly surprising rollercoaster full of twists and turns, The Call is a terrific popcorn flick and a great addition to Netflix’s repertoire.
The Call opens with a young woman named Seo-yeon moving into her new house out in the Korean countryside. Disillusioned with life after personal tragedy, this retreat to nowhere seems to be her attempt to escape the past. That is until she receives a mystery call on the home phone from another woman talking non-sense. These strange calls continue until it becomes clear that the other girl, Young-sook, is not from the present but actually twenty years in the past. Living in the same house at two different times with only the phone as a link, these two lonely souls bond over old/new Korean rock, buried time capsules, and the pain of broken homes. As the two work together to change their past and future, minor ripples in time quickly transform a gal-pal adventure into something much more sinister.
On a technical level The Call is a solidly constructed film. Different colours are used in the cinematography to distinguish between time periods and keep things from getting confusing. Moments of change in the fabric of time were depicted using unique visual effects even if some of it came off a little fake. Although it wasn’t astounding from a formal standpoint, Lee Chung-hyun did a great job directing his two lead actresses. Park Shin-hye is solid as the mild-mannered Seo-yeon, serving as the emotional anchor of the story. The woman on the other side of the line is the repressed Young-sook, played masterfully by Jeon Jong-seo. The second film after her stunning debut in 2018’s mystery/thriller Burning, Jeon is the indisputable star of the show and gives a performance emblematic of a film that refuses to follow conventions.
All of that being said, the most important element of The Call is its script which serves as both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. This film dares to take a tired genre and do something new with it, squeezing suspense from time travel conundrums I’ve never seen before. Despite that, it’s pretty clear that any in-depth analysis could expose some glaring holes in the plot. The logic surrounding this time-defying phone is dubious at best and leads to several head-scratching moments. However, if you’re willing to enjoy the thrills for what they are then this is a riveting experience all the way to the end. Unfortunately, that ending is The Call’s one unmistakable misfire. If only I could erase the last few moments from my memory this would have been a nearly flawless thriller. Despite that misstep, when functioning as a piece of pure entertainment The Call passes with gusto and can be forgiven the few story sins it does commit.
I had no idea what this movie was about going in and am so glad that I didn’t. For anyone wanting to watch something suspenseful, fun, and just flat out crazy then look no further. The Call continues South Korea’s tradition of genre-bending excellence with a time travel mystery that should finally convince everyone to disconnect their home phones forever.