Published Aug 28, 2014The Calling is Jason Stone's film adaptation of mysterious novelist Inger Ash Wolfe's (a.k.a. Michael Redhill) book of the same title. The cast is fronted by Susan Sarandon playing Hazel Micallef, a hardened detective with a host of self-destructive tendencies who is comfortable with her quiet, routine life in bleak, Fargo-esque Fort Dundas, Ontario. Micallef is joined by a recently transferred officer from Toronto, the adorably green Ben Wingate (Topher Grace), and the impossibly good-natured priest Father Price (Donald Sutherland); together they attempt to solve a string of shocking murders that have rattled their typically quiet town.
The identity of the sympathetic-yet-sadistic killer, known simply as Simon (Christopher Heyerdahl), is revealed early on in the film. Simon is a gaunt, eerily kind-eyed man who believes he's doing the work of God by brutally killing people that have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Father Price discovers his religious motive when he recognizes that the bodies' contorted faces and wide-open mouths are shaped in succession to speak a Latin phrase. Micallef works day and night to solve the mystery, and it begins to take over her free time and her life at home; eventually she finds herself face-to-face with the killer, and the case becomes a whole lot more personal when Micallef herself is in danger of being the next victim.
Micallef is a wonderfully flawed character, and Sarandon ably brings her vices and quirks to life, adding a darkly comedic element to the film. Micallef plunges into the mystery of Simon's killings, unflinching and totally driven. She is refreshingly brash, independent and different, but when Micallef finds herself trapped by Simon, she loses her headstrong, aggressive quality, powerlessly playing into his game like a damsel in distress. It is difficult to continue rooting for Micallef after this confusing shift in her character.
By revealing the killer's identity and motive so early in the film, The Calling is unable to rely on mystery and suspense to support the plot. With the mystery given up, The Calling morphs into a tense, side-by-side character study of Simon and Micallef. This approach is intriguing at first, but when Micallef's character fails to perform at the film's climax, there is nothing left for the film to stand on.
Despite beautiful performances from the film's major players, it is impossible to overlook The Calling's flawed second half. A tightly wound plot that seems to have so much direction suddenly unravels into a mediocre, tangled mess and nothing can be done to save The Calling.