Monday, August 2, 2021

Review: Apple TV+’s ‘Calls’ Is Riveting and Terrifyingly Brilliant

A new series is set to land on Apple TV+ later this week, and it absolutely cannot be missed. Calls, which is created and directed by Fede Álvarez, is an immersive television experience that relies heavily on audio and abstract visuals. Over the course of nine episodes, a terrifying mystery unfolds into an apocalyptic event as told through phone conversations. The concept of the show is based on the French series that goes by the same name.

Going into Calls, it’s important for audiences to keep in mind that you won’t actually see any actors on-screen. If you rely heavily on visual forms of entertainment, don’t let that dissuade you just yet. You’ll discover a newfound appreciation for the beauty and power of minimalistic storytelling with this unique series.

The most enticing aspect of Calls is the apocalyptic mystery, which unfolds thrillingly in episodes that are long enough to draw you in and tell the story, but also short enough to compete with the ever-dwindling attention spans of media consumers. The first episode is equal parts confusing and intriguing, which is entirely the point. You’re hooked once everything starts to go off the rails, there’s no turning back, and then the story steps backward in time to chronicle the disastrous events through the stories of strangers experiencing them.

The strangers in question are voiced by an all-star lineup of actors, including the likes of Nick Jonas, Pedro Pascal, Karen Gillan, Lily Collins, and many more. Calls takes the concept of voice acting to a different level, because there are no visual characters to be seen. The cast doesn’t have the ability to supplement their lines with the support of animated facial expressions or body language, so they guide us through the story with their voices alone. The storytelling felt raw, real, and authentic, and there was a palpable chemistry between the individual cast members in each episode as they played off of one another’s emotions.

The abstract visuals throughout the series may at first just appear to be present for the purpose of flanking the subtitles in a decorative manner, thus justifying why this is in a television format and not a podcast. However, it quickly becomes apparent that they’re actually a fundamental aspect to the overall integrity of Calls; they drive the series with an intensity equal to that of the actor voiceovers. Despite the lack of real life images playing out on the screen, the abstracts are utilized in such a way that they formulate a sense of space, distance, movement, and direction alongside the narrative. They mimic the concept of things like a plane, a prison, stairs, or even just turning a car around in an incredibly intuitive manner, bringing the story to life in a way that you wouldn’t expect. The story immerses you in such a way that the visuals gain a heightened sense of power as the episodes go on, able to swiftly evoke a terrifying feeling of dread and discomfort with something as simple as lines and colors.

Overall, Calls is an impressively thrilling experience that’s guaranteed to leave audiences on the edge of their seats. You’ll oscillate between fear and fascination as the mystery unravels and eventually comes to a close with a satisfying, full circle ending.

The past year has proven difficult for the film industry, as productions have had to get creative to find safe and appropriate ways to continue producing content in light of restrictions. However, Calls serves as a brilliant and refreshing example of the fact that there are other ways to go about making a hit series.

This series comes from Studiocanal and Bad Hombre productions in association with CANAL+. Calls will premiere exclusively on Apple TV+ this Friday, March 19.

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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