There is a fascination with people who have difficult jobs; the more difficult and high-stress the job, the deeper the fascination with the people who hold them. The TV listings are full of shows about those intense jobs (Ice Road Truckers, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch, Vinnie Jones: Russia’s Toughest, etc.), and the movies are no stranger to them either. Mostly, the movies are concerned with the jobs with the highest possibility for gunfire and shouting, so hostage negotiator is generally the go-to for that (The Negotiator, Running Out of Time, Proof of Life, Ransom, Hostage, etc.). However, there is a step in that whole process of escalation that is often overlooked in the rush to get to the gunfire… the emergency services operator.
Originally conceived as a TV series, writer Richard D’Ovidio eventually decided to rewrite the project as a feature film when he effectively realised an important aspect of the job of a 911 operator, which is actually addressed in the film. When a relative newbie to “the Hive” (the name given to the centre, after the constant buzzing of calls and talking) is asked what the most difficult part of her job is, she responds that it’s the not knowing how each call turns out. For better or worse, when that call terminates, you don’t know how it ends. You just move on to the next one. These operators are a vital link in the emergency process, but they ultimately remain distanced from the resolution. But this is a point to which I shall return later.
The real success of the film, though, is achieved thanks to the fine work of the two leads, Berry and Breslin. Each puts in a solid and involving turn in their respective roles, both keeping up their edgy intensity and pulling us along for the ride. It’s thanks to these two that the film works at its best.
Ultimately, what begins as an interesting and well-meaning public service announcement about the people who answer the call on probably the worst day of everyone’s lives, and anchored by two damn good lead performances, devolves into a disquietingly unsavoury bit of quasi-exploitation revenge fantasy.
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