Director: Charles Barker
Cast: Morfydd Clark, Max Deacon, Adriana Randall, Tom Benedict Knight
Running Time: 90 mins
Release Date: 20th May, 2016
A group of avid gamers sign up to a competition to win $100,000 and try out the latest in virtual reality technology. They soon realise that the game is more realistic than they ever could have imagined.
The Call Up feels like a combination of a few films that has created a somewhat unique plot. Seven people from different backgrounds all receive suspicious emails offering them the chance to win a large sum of money if they compete and test out a new virtual reality game in which the aim is to escape a building full of armed terrorists. You have to assume that is the aim of the game anyway, it is not made very clear in the beginning. However, the introduction to the game is pretty entertaining and stays within the realms of video game logic. A pre-programmed soldier walks in and instructs the contestants on how to shoot weapons, how to restore their health, and to guide them throughout the game in various sections.
The plot moves along at a steady pace and is basic enough to follow. They have to get to the bottom floor of a building, shoot people, and not die – that’s about it. They realise after the first level that if you die in the game, you die in real life too, thus sending them on a frantic journey through the game desperately trying to survive.
The problems with The Call Up start about an hour in; so far it has been an enjoyable enough film with decent action scenes, an interesting enough base for a story, and the performances are certainly not bad. It begins to get a bit repetitive after a while though. Characters get shot and frantically try to find medi-packs before their time runs out, people argue about whether they should continue the game or try to break out of the building, these things happen multiple times throughout the film and don’t really offer up a new avenue for the plot. It is as if they are simply filler scenes.
There are a few entertaining scenes between Tom Benedict Knight and Douggie McMeekin, and most of the characters go through some sort of arc (although the exposition in some of these scenes seem incredibly forced and completely out of the blue in most occasions). Ultimately the film becomes a bit stale. The climax is very disappointing; the apparent big twist does not make a lot of sense and is not even explained. After watching it, the whole film seems like a bit of a waste of time. This is a shame because the film started off being very promising, but it just appeared to lose steam after an hour. For a low-budget film, it managed to do quite a lot with what it had and the switching between the virtual reality and the sterile empty rooms they are actually in are very effective and help keep things interesting for a while.
Overall, you might find The Call Up entertaining if you are interested in games and are intrigued to see how this deals with that medium. There are a few entertaining action scenes, but these do become very familiar by the time it reaches the end.