Sympathies to operators everywhere
Call Operator a shelf-grabber – it’s dynamic cover art has explosions, a SWAT team, Ving Rhames, and Luke Goss. In tandem, those images are a fine way to gloss up this D-level production stuffed with D-level drama.
Operator is a senseless dud, encumbered by its stiff exposition and tripped up by its for-the-paycheck performances. Mischa Barton slogs through her role as a 911 operator, sending police to their death at the will of the boomy voice at the other end of the line (Ving Rhames). She listens because Rhames has her daughter captive and is willing to kill if Barton doesn’t follow along.
To consider the film improbable would be cordial considering what rolls across the frame. Riddled with logic holes and plot inconsistencies, Operator barely holds itself together. It has twists, but they’re ruined because Operator wants to reveal itself like an over-excited kid – Operator can’t wait to expose its secrets. So it does, lumbering through the story with clues almost too obvious; most mysteries use the obvious as a diversion. That diversion is Operator’s story.
Operator never has the enthusiasm to pull itself together. Neither do the actors. One bit player stands still as a crane crashes down on top of him. The death appears like an awkward, intentional suicide rather than the emotional loss this script intends.
Luke Goss stumbles through the role of a cop, unraveling Rhames’ plan as assassination attempts continue to fail. He may have the best role – Goss is vastly superior to the direct-to-video starring roles he takes – running around firing his gun with hand-motioned recoil. At least he’s trying. A little.
Excusing Operator as a first (or at least early career) film for much of the key production crew isn’t viable. It’s too widely scoped for the budget (even with Rhames spending most of the role sitting and talking into a phone), too clumsy in its construction, and too lumbering to be entertaining.
Post production work on Operator is destructive. The contrast is layered with an inexcusable haze, giving images either a blown out or fuzzy look. That does not constitute unique style; it’s looking for anything to latch onto visually.
Digitally shot, Operator swarms with noise. Digital tweaks only further the problems and Alchemy’s encode can do little to subside the issue. Color grading brings out a sea of boring blues for the 911 operator’s workspace, butting up against the warmth of natural sunlight in exteriors.
Some fidelity sticks around. Rhames, secluded in an office, is victim to little of the processing or filters. His close-ups are exceptionally resolved. Goss has a handful of fidelity-rich moments too. The raw camera source appears to have been captured at reasonable resolution. It’s the post-production nonsense which saps the image’s weight.
TrueHD authoring will not salvage this rookie-esque audio presentation. Dynamic range holds to no reasonable level, flailing between thunderous gunshots and inaudible dialogue. A building explosion late shakes the room, but the effect is muddy and imprecise.
Operator does have life. The 911 call center has a spread of ambient dialogue and ringing phones. They stretch into the stereos or loudly into the rears. Police radios slip into the additional channels too, yet do so with a loud presence. At times, they’re louder than the center channel or their placement is exaggerated. Even ignoring those faults, low budget restrictions reveal themselves around 36-minutes in. Ambient on-set audio is audible without clean-up, while stock sounds of passing cars try to mitigate the issue.
No extras other than trailers.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.