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1 rating: 5.0
A movie directed by Richard Ledes

A corporate executive (Frank Langella) plans to blow the whistle on his company's unsavory practices, putting his life in peril. So he anonymously hires a private detective (Elliott Gould) to keep an eye on an unusual target: himself. Motivations … see full wiki

Director: Richard Ledes
Release Date: 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Caller

A "slow" "thriller" well worth the time

  • Apr 23, 2009
Pros: Cinematography, acting, story, structure, narrative

Cons: Might be too slow for the less attentive

The Bottom Line: The Caller requires only that you relax into a gently complex story that is worth every minute.  It will be among the top 10 for this year (I suspect).

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

The Caller is a slow thriller.  It isn’t quite a mystery story given that the audience knows all the parts of the “mystery” from the beginning; instead it has the hallmarks of a thriller since it involves a hunt, chase, implied violence, some real violence and dramatic irony.  Thrillers are, as often as not, partly driven by dramatic irony: the audience has enough or all of the information about the story but none of the characters knows this yet.  This allows the audience to slough off the idea of mystery and focus on the, hopefully, exciting way the movie moves to the end. 

The plot is subtle and I am severely limited by what I can say.  Frank Langella plays a character who calls a detective to trail someone because the man is going to be murdered.  The detective is Elliot Gould.  He says he is an “eye” meaning he takes photos of the mark rather than something more invasive.  From here it moves like a thriller does, just at a slower pace.  Since this movie is so subtle, I really can say no more about the plot.

The analysis will not have any plot spoilers.

My mantra for movies is that it has to be pleasing or interesting to the eye.  It is a visual medium, so a movie, no matter how good the plot or acting, falls short if the camerawork, scenery, and “art direction” (what I call look and feel—duh) are bad.  Most films are mediocre and this is not necessarily bad because a good story or acting can overcome this.  The Caller is so pleasing, so clever, that it rides shotgun with the story so that neither require more attention than the other (meaning that you don’t have to watch the film for the effects then watch it again for the story—Night Watch and Day Watch for example, the Russian movies so over the top with visual effects that I drooled having no idea what the story was about the first time through).

Richard Ledes’s uses the camera trick tools that intensify thriller (and horror and slasher) films: the camera seems to be just a wee bit past where you want it to be so that anything can come into frame from “just . . . over . . . there.”  Since the audience is already prepared so just having this feeling is enough to keep tensions high even when nothing unexpected happens.  The camera tricks here maintain the idea of slowness.  When a scene takes place in a different location and will last a while, he uses a full circular pan of the surroundings.  In this case, it is not the “just . . . over . . . there” concept, it focuses mainly on the misdirection that is also a staple of the thriller genre.

Within this visual framework are 2 actors playing what is, to my mind, the best I’ve seen either of them (though admittedly I have likely seen only half of what they have done) and the best I’ve seen in months.  Their characters are not all that complicated.  Langella’s character is a black suit wearing suave man who likes children and reading in Central Park.  Gould is a “private detective” who is really just a glorified candid photographer.  His character trait is a fascination with birds.  This gives him a reason to wander around NYC carrying a Nikon with some seriously professional lenses without drawing much attention since he can go from bird to person without being suspicious.  There are other actors, but their roles are for context only.  All play their parts well, but they also know that their part is not to suck or to overshadow and that succeeds.

All of these aspects are co-equals.  The Caller probably has about the same sized audience as Heights and both movies are structurally compelling, and this is a major component of what makes the films worth watching.  Heights is an Aristotelian tragedy; The Caller as I keep saying is a thriller.  This makes each film “new.”

If you are easily bored, then this film is not for you.  If you don’t mind a film taking a while to develop or to coalesce once it begins to find its direction, then I highly recommend it.  If you like either actor, then I highly recommend it.


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