BY JACK RANSOM JANUARY 22, 2024
There have been a handful of similar one location set thrillers released recently, especially with phone operators involved - The Guilty (both the excellent original and lacklustre remake) and a Mel Gibson starring vehicle also titled On the Line as well. Whilst the 60’s time setting of On the Line is a unique switch up and there is a sense of stagey/theatrical claustrophobia, unfortunately even at less than 75 minutes this feels overstretched and the repetition sets in quickly.
A one location thriller set in 1964 Alderney, UK. A telephone operator (Victoria Lucie) ends up being the pivotal piece of a drama unfurling which puts professional integrity, and relationships, to the test.
The film's interest and tension levels scattershot over the course of the duration. At its best the film offers palpable distress, confusion and anticipation, as Agnes (Lucie) dedicates her shift to piecing together a potentially lethal and layered crime that is playing out in real time. At its worst, it’s a trail of substantially uninteresting callers and some incredibly cheesy and very much stagey/unnatural dialogue exchanges. I also feel that the events escalate too jarringly throughout.
The cramped, tight-knit one location of the operator office is kept visually interesting with a sprinkling of different camerawork techniques. The musty, saturated, retro aesthetic is captured nicely, and the clunks, whirs, crackles and hums of the old school phone equipment boasts solid sound design. Performance-wise this really is a one-woman show from Victoria Lucie, who delivers a convincingly invested, persistent, snappy and caring lead performance. As previously mentioned, some of the dialogue does hold back her exchanges with callers, some of which find themselves in hammy/melodramatic territory.
Overall, On the Line is a mediocre thriller-inflicted drama that boasts a strong central performance, well crafted production and moments of tension. Unfortunately, you will have seen the formula several times before, the dialogue is lacklustre at times and the pacing should have been sharper for a 73 minute feature.