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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. Once the group are attacked by enemy combatants, they soon realize this is no game after all. Make a mistake here and you pay with your life. Now these masters of the shoot ‘em up will have to fight for survival within a game gone bad, but this time it’s for real.

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The Call Up movie full length review - When coding can kill!

Sci-fi films are pretty much an anathema to me and gaming even more so. The nearest I have come to virtual reality would have been some trips to Laser Quest in the 1990s and, no, I did not enjoy them.

I fell asleep in the latest Star Wars film and although I very much respected and enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, any fighting or battles scenes brought on instant bouts of narcolepsy.

So when this merchant ivory, vom com, art house and 'film philosphe' aficionado went to see a virtual reality horror film, the best I was hoping for was not to fall asleep....and fall asleep I did not!

The opening sequence was sheer quality and had me hooked from the start. It was hard to believe I was watching a low budget film when the finish, style and inventiveness of The Call Up was better than many Hollywood blockbusters. Compared to other low budget films I have seen, this struck me as a masterclass demonstrating what can be produced on a low budget and is testimony to the quality of production and direction of Charles Barker.

The iconic virtual reality costumes, the charismatic mix of personalities amongst the gamers taking part in the virtual reality fantasy turned horror film and the human interest, comedy and plot twist make it much more than a genre film. Attractive actors with star potential were in abundance. Morfydd Clark had a similar screen presence and quality to Daisy Ridley of Star Wars fame. Seeing as The Call Up would have been filmed long before the Star Wars film came out, The Call-Up was quite uncannily predictive of the current vogue of sci-fi screen heroine. That said, every gamer actor, although clearly exhibiting all too human emotions when realising they were in a shooting game with real and visceral consequences, managed to tap into their inner hero.

Whereas the reviews will say that this film appeals primarily to gamers and I full admit that any nods to character tropes and lines from games such as Call of Duty were completely wasted on me, the human interest of the characters and the suspense as to who would be next to succumb and why kept my attention throughout.

Of equal interest, was the question posed as to the nefarious effects of artificial intelligence. We are in a position where we could not only create something powerful enough to destroy us but would also permit it to do so due to the fact that we are so already ensconced in a virtual world that it is perfectly feasible that we would willingly entrust our bodies to a futuristic looking virtual reality armour suit given to us by an anonymous corporation. A skillful effect is that the blurring of the distinction between what we would do in a virtual reality world as oppose to real life increases throughout the film yet we are reminded of the stark visual contrast between the real world and war scene by the constant flip up and down of the gamers helmet visors in parallel.

As in The Hunger Games or William Golding's Lord of the Flies, we get to explore that question that we must pose ourselves from time to time as human beings as to how life would really play out if it was a survival of the fittest game. The vast majority of us are lucky enough never to have to put our theories to the test, yet this is surely the ultimate question we ask ourselves to understand what is at the core of human existence. So, we should indulge ourselves this foray into a virtual reality dystopia and explore The Call-Up now!