Phone Booth (2002)


Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Phone Booth was originally scheduled for 2002 but was delayed when it's release date coincided with the DC area sniper attacks.  It was also made before it's star, Colin Farrell, became the Hollywood "It" boy (Daredevil, The Recruit, Minority Report, etc.)  It's a pretty good movie for what it is but would probably be more interesting if it were adapted for the stage as a play.  

The movie takes place in real time and that's a scant 80 minutes.  Hardly even a feature film.  In the first couple minutes we meet Stuart "Stu" Shepard.  A entertainment publicist who is constantly making a deal and playing an angle for either himself or one of his customers.  He enters a phone booth to call one of his clients whom he is having an affair with and ends up receiving a call from a sniper who has him targeted and then pinned down in the booth.  The sniper knows everything about Stu and before he kills him he wants Stu to confess his sins and beg for absolution.   The next 75 minutes fly by as we watch Stu attempt to keep the police at bay while he begs forgiveness from his girlfriend, his wife and the sniper. 

I watch/listen to CNN all day while I'm at work.  I saw the whole DC beltway sniper thing from beginning to end as it happened each day on CNN.  Watching this movie was a lot like watching a real incident on TV.  Throughout the film little picture in picture windows open as Stu calls his wife or girlfriend or the 911 operator.  On CNN, they split the screen sometimes from the crime scene to an interview or something with another person or event associated with the crime in progress.  I suppose that was the coolest thing about Phone Booth- It seemed like you were watching it as it happened on the news.

The suspense of the situation is somewhat diluted by the fact that Stu is not really a character that you sympathize with.  And the situation itself, like an actual news story, will really only hold your attention for about an hour if nothing new happens.  Sooner or later you will want the sniper to take his shot and be done with it and the film ends in a way that does not exactly make this happen.  It has a little twist that I won't go into detail about but will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the famous voice of the sniper.

Colin Farrell is a pretty good actor.  He's nothing special but he is really, really handsome so that explains his recent mega-stardom.  If you want to see him in a really good movie that he made before anyone knew his name rent Tigerland.  (Which was coincidentally directed by the same guy, Joel Schumacher, as Phone Booth)  He also dated Britney Spears for at least one night so we have to give him credit for desecrating America's Pop Princess.  Forest Whitaker does his usual serviceable job and I won't even mention the other actor so as not to ruin the sniper surprise.  

All in all Phone Booth was fun to watch as a appetizer and actually slightly better than Bulletproof Monk which I sneaked into afterward.  I love the multiplex.  Especially during the afternoon when security is lax.