The Call Up - Film Review

   As e-Sports explode in popularity and VR gaming continues to rapidly develop, it surely can't be too long before we witness a tournament akin to the one presented to us in The Call Up - a movie in which a gang of gamers are invited to pit their wits against each other in an incredibly realistic shoot 'em up. As they don their motion-capture suits, each of our heroes are transported into a world of maximum peril - a simulacrum of a military stake-out.

   Yet, all is not as it seems. For the contestants battling it out for the $100'000 prize, everything soon begins to feel a little too real  - perhaps they're geniunely having to fight for their own survival inside something they had once considered as just a game? Does death inside the game equate to death in the real world too?

   Written and directed by Charles Barker, The Call Up is a film which invokes memories of retro sci-fi such as The Running Man and Tron whilst also feeling incredibly pertinent - its not difficult to imagine the premise being used as a launching point for an episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror.

   As we see individuals in over their heads, not quite understanding the real-life ramifications of the violence they create and are subjected to, it becomes rather easy to draw parallels between Barker's movie and the real life situation of the  US military recruiting gamers to man their drones .

   The Call Up, a title which can be seen as referencing conscription, confronts us with a multitude of questions: how would someone who indulges in simulated violence cope with it in real life? Why do we seek out games of death and destruction in the virtual world when we'd do anything to avoid such situations in reality? How has technology disconnected us from our real lives?

   Eloquently shot with some rather fantastic special effects, Barker's film is one which provides a much-needed antithesis to the utopian world which advertisers offer us for fully embracing technology. This is a winning piece of social commentary. Yet, simultaneously, Barker does a rather excellent job of fitting his critique into a piece of cinema which manages to faithfully convey the grammar of computer gaming within its frames too - many of the scenes here are reminiscent of Xcom, for example, whilst the synthesized score by Tom Raybould roots The Call Up entirely within a digital universe.

   As Oculus Rift drifts towards the mainstream and we are encouraged to sport wearable gadgetry and devices, we're forced to ask - is the continual advance of technology actually a good thing?

   When looking at the helacious situation our troupe of gamers find themselves within as part of The Call Up, the answer is clearly no. But, in the hands of Barker et al and used for creating the movie The Call Up, it would take a fool-hardy Luddite to argue against it. Technology, we must note, is neither innately good or bad - it is how we implement it which makes it so. This is a movie which asks us to consider how, and why, we use it.

THE CALL UP is in cinemas 20 May & DVD/Digital 23 May 2016.
Available for  pre-order at Amazon  now.

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