Beyond the Call (1996)
Dead Man Talking
When married mum of two Pam O'Brien (Sissy Spacek - JFK) reads a newspaper article about Russell Cates (David Strathairn - The River Wild) a former Kingsbury resident on death row for killing a cop she realises it is the same Russell who was her high school sweetheart. After writing him a letter Pam also goes to visit him and doesn't for one minute believe the blasé act he puts on as he is nothing like the Russell she once loved and still has some feelings for. But not only does Pam begin to understand there is more to Russell's incarceration than she realises but it leads to issues with her husband Keith (Arliss Howard) who like Russell went to Vietnam but returned home and dealt with the horrors he saw.
"Beyond the Call" is a movie for fans of the theatre; it's a wordy movie where it is all about the conversations, what Pam says to Russell, what Keith says to Pam and how they react. It is not a movie with lots of drama in fact it is a movie with not a lot of anything but scenes where people talk to each other as there are very few transitional scenes. Now there is nothing wrong with that but it is something worth knowing before sitting down to watch because if you struggle with dialogue heavy movies this one will be a struggle.
Having said that you couldn't have picked two better actors than Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn to handle this sort of movie. Both Spacek and Strathairn not only deliver their dialogue in a thoroughly convincing manner but they react to each other, they bring light and dark to their characters which make them interesting. In fact Spacek and Strathairn are the best thing about this TV movie which feels like it was made on a small budget with limited locations which again give that sense that this could work on the stage.
The trouble is that whilst Spacek and Strathairn do a good job of bringing their characters to life the actual storyline is not that great. The trouble is that "Beyond the Call" is another movie about those who returned from Vietnam psychologically scarred from what they witnessed and what they did and whilst it has its own spin on things with a bit of a surprise ending this subject has been covered many times before. Yes it has some interesting aspects but the basic theme is sadly too familiar which is why at times despite the superior performances it feels like hard work to watch.
What this all boils down to is that "Beyond the Call" is a good movie but it is good because of Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn and their skill as actors who make their characters worth watching.
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