Review: Jack Foley | Rating:
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 Farrells
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 Shephards 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 films release), but then art became imitated
The Washington sniper story threatened to cast a shadow over
the movies 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
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
The combination makes for compelling viewing, backed by Larry
Cohens clever script, which cleverly manipulates the viewers
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
The conversation between the two expertly manipulates the viewers
sense of right and wrong, flitting between the unethical, self-serving
Shephard, and Sutherlands charismatic moral adjuster
- a gunman who has struck before at what he perceives to be societys
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.