Film - The Call Up

Call Up

Steve Taylor-Bryant gets a mysterious invitation and watches indie film The Call Up...

Directed by Charles Barker
Produced by Matthew James Wilkinson & John Giwa-Amu
Screenplay by Charles Barker
Starring Parker Sawyers, Max Deacon, Morfydd Clark


When a group of elite online gamers each receive a mysterious invitation to trial a state-of-the-art virtual reality video game, it’s a dream come true and impossible to resist. Arriving at the test site, the group step into hi-tech gear and prepare for a revolutionary, next-level gaming experience that brings modern warfare to life with frightening realism. At first it’s a unique and exhilarating experience. But what starts out like a dream encounter with cutting edge technology quickly takes a turn for the sinister.

You may think the decision to have me review a scifi/gaming/virtual reality film is flawed. You are right that I don't have the scientific analysis strength of Ren Zelen, the enthusiastic eloquence to describe the different like Nate McKenzie, the gaming background of the Defective Inspector, and I certainly don't have the knowledge of all things VR that is contained within the Jayson Kristen software, however if a film containing all these attributes is to work on a grand scale then it has to both grip and appeal to a mere mortal like me whose speciality is non-fiction so, with an open mind, I received The Call Up.

First things first… There will be spoilers throughout this article so look away now if you don’t want to know what happens, but this film can not be spoken about in a spoiler free way.

Call up soldiers

Still with me? Good. This film is stunning. I don’t mean in a ‘cant think of a better word but I enjoyed it way’ I mean visually this film is stunning. Very often in genre productions, even big budget Hollywood ones, you have something happen visually that takes away the pretence of what you are watching. Not here. With The Call up you have a Visual Effects team, a Director (first time director by the way), and an Editor that are totally in synch with their vision. The reality our characters are actually in, the war torn grittiness of the gaming levels, and the mixture of the two are so well played out that you honestly forget you are watching fiction and get so gripped in what is unfolding on the screen. Add in a story that has no weaknesses and a cast that are highly believable and you become attached to it. This is a genre film and yet here I am emotionally attached throughout like I would be in a film about illness or puppies. The writing is so good that you cant see the plot twists, and there are many, coming so you learn your fate at the same rate as the characters which makes it impossible to not go through a range of emotions or audibly exhale at certain points.

Casting wise I knew no nobody but the way they each grabbed their roles and flew with it made me a fan of each and every one of them by the end. There was no ‘real action heroes’ here. They were loners, a divorcee, an illegal immigrant, an orphan, a widower etc and as you become attached to that element of their persona’s you learn the importance of their loneliness and how it has affected why they were chosen for the game.

There was high quality finish to the film that you don’t normally find in smaller productions. There was a cast you could buy into. There was enough of the gaming and science elements of Virtual Reality to please my colleagues but I also found it understandable without feeling the film ever dumbed anything down for me. The fact that this is Charles Barker’s first film is astounding. For an unknown to enter the film industry and write and direct and cast a film like this makes me hopeful for the future of film. From the bastard son of R. Lee Ermey’s Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant, Chris Obi as the games controller in chief stopped the film spiralling out of control, letting you know you were still in the game and yet adding a violence to the realism and he is definitely one to watch. The suits they wear in the real world are unflattering and immediately take away any preconceived gender ideas you may have. No one looks good or sexy in them and that in itself was refreshing, it made the everyman like you or I the potential villain or world saver. The deaths both within the gaming levels and within the reality were brutally realistic and elements of the violence had you really squirming, especially the first couple of times as the characters realise they can actually die and this no longer a game.

This is a must watch action film. This is a must watch science fiction/gaming inspired film. This is a must watch film for casting, for script and story, for visual effects, for direction and editing. Dare I say this a flawless film? I dare.

Images - The Call Up

THE CALL UP is in UK cinemas from 20th May and on DVD & Digital 23rdMay