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Phone Booth (15)



Review: Jack Foley | Rating: 2

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of (28 mins).

DIRECTOR, Joel Schumacher, has been waiting to hook viewers with Phone Booth for almost two years, but now that the real-time thriller has finally arrived, it turns out to be one of the most engaging thrillers of the year.

The premise is simple. A high-brow media consultant (Colin Farrell’s Stu Shephard) answers a phone in a public booth and is told that he will be shot dead if he hangs up. The killer wants to play mind games with the recipient and is about to expose some uncomfortable home truths about his life.

To complicate matters, the booth is also used by some local hookers, who become incensed with Shephard’s over-use of the facility.

When their pimp attempts to intervene, he is shot dead, prompting the police to surround the phone booth in the belief that Shephard is the killer.

The ensuing battle of wits, played out over 80 tense minutes, makes for gripping stuff, as the emotionally shallow Shephard is forced to take responsibility for the way he has lived his life, using people to further his career and two-timing his wife (Radha Mitchell) with a prospective client (Katie Holmes).

So why the delay in releasing the movie? Initially, it was down to the fact that Farrell was not considered to be a big enough name (having only appeared in the independent Tigerland prior to the film’s release), but then art became imitated by life.

The Washington sniper story threatened to cast a shadow over the movie’s viability and it was, once more, put back until a more sensitive time slot could be found - a ploy which may just have worked in its favour.

Farrell is now hotter than he has ever been (off the back of Daredevil, Minority Report and The Recruit), while the voice of the sniper belongs to Kiefer Sutherland (currently riding high in the real-time series, 24, and who replaced first choice, Ron Eldard, after filming had been completed).

The combination makes for compelling viewing, backed by Larry Cohen’s clever script, which cleverly manipulates the viewer’s emotions between the two protagonists.

Farrell is perfectly cast as the motor-mouthed consultant who is stripped naked, emotionally, by the events of the day, while Sutherland is perfectly suited to the role of the sniper, appearing on-screen only momentarily, but using his unmistakable voice to chilling effect.

The conversation between the two expertly manipulates the viewer’s sense of right and wrong, flitting between the unethical, self-serving Shephard, and Sutherland’s charismatic ‘moral adjuster’ - a gunman who has struck before at what he perceives to be society’s ills.

And if proceedings threaten to lull, Schumacher knows when to throw in a new twist, never failing to raise the stakes even higher as proceedings draw near to their sweaty conclusion - and toying with the viewers’ perceptions of what they know.

If you wanted to find fault with the movie, then you could argue that a stronger moral dilemma may have been derived from pitting the sniper against one of his first two victims (in one case, a paedophile), or that the finale fails to match the quality of its set-up; but that would be churlish.

Phone Booth is pure popcorn entertainment; a stimulating thriller that is as tense as it is fun, and boosted by some top-notch star turns. This is one call you will be wanting to take.

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