The Call Up

Director: Charles Barker (2016)

I was tempted to go MIA while watching this misfiring sci fi action thriller.

Virtual reality gamers feeling the real pain of warfare is a strong premise. But the potential is carelessly squandered by the lack of polish in the script. This translates into a deficit of onscreen urgency, tension or humour.

Eight expert online gamers are invited to the top floor of a tower block.

Identified to each other only by their avartars, they’re squeezed into full immersion technology suits; an unforgiving combo of nylon jump suits and white armour.

Believing they’re playing a hi-tech version of paintball, they’re instructed to fight their way past ‘terrorists’ to the ground floor.

This is a similar scenario to the comic book adaptation Dredd (2012) and Indonesian martial arts movie The Raid: Redemption (2012). It worked brilliantly there but not so much here.

A strangely muted pace and the workaday action lacks the gleeful sadism of recent low similar budget flicks such as The Purge (2013).

The player with highest points will win £100,000 prize money. However the team quickly discover being shot involves pain, injury and even death. This is definitely not what they  signed up for.

Sadly the twist ending isn’t worth waiting for. Plus the characters are so thinly sketched we don’t care.

Morfydd Clark and Ali Cook are among the hard working actors struggling to inject life into a sterile environment.

There’s some sweet design in the costumes and technology but even assuming for the budget constraints, the location dressing is uninspired.

What should compensate is scorching action, great dialogue, the sense of a wider world, a critique of game playing or perhaps an examination of the correlation between on and off screen violence. And all of this is missing.

By setting itself low ambitions and barely achieving them, experiencing The Call Up was far too much a call of duty.

@ChrisHunneysett

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