The Call Up

The-Call-Up-2The next big thing in gaming in the fully immersive VR experience. Several products have come on the market in the last year which are getting people very excited for this experience. Cinema, never one to overlook a trend, has attempted this over the years to a varying degree of success. One of the latest additions is the new movie, The Call Up.

A group of top online gamers recieve an invitation to take part in a demo for a new state of the art VR experience called The Call Up. It is an experimental take on an immersive shoot-em-up game set in a building full of hostiles. After donning VR suits, the gamers find that things turn a bit strange. For a start they are on the twenty fifth floor of an unused office block and all the doors are stuck. Soon they discover that the game has a further twist in that they can die for real. The only way to escape is to battle to the ground, one floor at a time.

The initial set up of the film is quite promising. The title sequence is employed to good effect in setting up the premise. It concentrates on one character and introduces the mysterious nature of the game experience. Unfortunately the rest of the movie struggles to honour the beginning.

The-call-up-1We are presented with a bunch of stock characters that are supposed to represent different facets of shoot-em-up gaming culture. There is the troubled soul (who we met in the credits), the only one with his back story made clear, so we will be rooting for him. There is the overweight, man-boy gamer who is full of bravado and a bit loud. The muscle bound jock called Atlas (of course) and the quiet, introspective guy who no doubt will blossom as the film progresses.

To round off the team there are the most common film stereotypes out there. The two female characters who initially are portrayed as weak and defenceless. One of them cries for the first half of the film. Of course, they get all bad ass later on. The last character is the black man. The only non white in the team, he is of course the first to die. It’s really about time this got knocked on the head. It is so predictable and really quite offensive.

The film works best during the action scenes. The VR ‘world ‘ is well constructed and it has the familiar feel of a Call Of Duty or Splinter Cell game. It has the look of a partially destroyed building in a city landscape during a war. Other elements add to the tension. The opponents are intelligent and don’t die easily and if the team takes too long on a level, then the opponents respawn or their Sergeant Major type guide comes in to get them moving, usually in a violent way. The limited ammo and finite med packs also raise the stakes for the participants.

The other plus point is that there is no exposition during the film. Each player receives the call up, attends and starts. There are no cuts to whoever is controlling the situation. This works well and it builds up quite nicely only to be totally ruined by an ending that feels a bit too neat. In the context of the proceedings, it doesn’t make a lot of sense and ultimately leaves a poor overall impression of the film.

Overall, a decent idea that is let down by a weak ending and some backward thinking stereotypes.

John McArthur
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