Phone Booth (2003)

Could have been perfect advertising for Boost Mobile.

Slick New York publicist Stuart Shepard (Colin Farrell) picks up a ringing receiver in a phone booth and is told that if he hangs up, he’ll be killed. Turns out Shephard is being watched by a rooftop killer with a sniper rifle — and the little red light from an infrared rifle sight is proof that the caller isn’t kidding.

Director Joel Schumacher is known for his duds (‘Batman & Robin’, ‘The Number 23‘) and his studs (‘Tigerland’, ‘Falling Down‘), however, what’s to happen if he has just a film that’s right in the middle of everything else. I can say that its probably better than what he released earlier this year.

The premise here is simple and could have easily been used wrong but somehow, Schumacher really does keep this plot moving and tension-filled the whole entire time. There are constant twists right at every corner of the story, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next or how each person is going to react and it just will really keep you going.

I think Schumacher’s best element with this film was how he keeps the camera constantly moving, and never lets loose. It’s all told in real-time and the film never steps away from Stuart and the phone booth which will give you this sort of “no way out” feel.

The voice of the bad boy is also a lot louder than everybody else around him and you constantly hear him, which I think is very truthful because when you are put into a situation like this, you only hear what the dude on the phone is saying and everybody else around you is sort of silent. I thought this added a lot to the film and to have Keifer Sutherland as the voice was just a perfect choice altogether, because that laugh is just so damn sinister!

The problem I think this film runs into is that it kind of loses focus as to what it wants to be and who exactly its trying to focus on. It felt like the movie was trying to show that we should all re-examine our lives because what we do everyday could be wrong to others, but to have that shown in a film where a guy has a sniper locked on a dude in a phone booth seems a little strange. Also, just because the guy apologizes and admits his wrong-doings doesn’t mean he’s naturally just a changed man, he’s just more honest.

Another problem with this film was that it’s focus was kind of on both of these two and it wasn’t necessarily well-executed to say. The film spends time basically trying to get us to empathize with b0th rather than with just one and this sort of divides us because we don’t know who to care for and who to not care for. There are signs that this killer isn’t a real bad dude and has reasons for these things that he does, but they are more or simply just left open, with nothing to really cover it in the end of the overall product.

Colin Farrell is the freakin’ man as Stuart in this film and I think this is what certified his star-power. Farrell starts off like a total hot-shot asshole that has no real compassion for the bad things that he does, and constantly tries to weasel his way out of the situation he’s in until he’s basically forced to come full-force with his mistakes and acts in anyway a normal human being would. Farrell controls himself with this film and doesn’t over-act it by any means at all, which is definitely something to applaud because I know so many other actors would have.

Consensus: The direction and acting is what keeps Phone Booth tense and entertaining, but the focus seems a little bit too divided and there isn’t much that this film really tries to answer by the end of the film either.



  1. I remember seeing this in the theater. It’s okay, but anti-climactic, and whoever the killer is– Kiefer Sutherland?– is needlessly ambivalent. I think a better script and (cough) more focused director could have made it work.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised by this film, it actually gets quite tense. I had it pegged as a nothing kind of action film, with Farrell who usually irritates me a little bit. The whole thing is kind of a set piece and you’re right that the stasis of the phone box adds a ‘no way out’ feel. Good review as usual!

  3. I enjoyed this film. It did lost itself slightly in the middle, but it was an interesting premise and I kinda dig Kiefer Sutherland’s slightly sexy but every so lightly off putting voice of the villain.

  4. This is a movie I’ve seen so many times and I really love it (probably a bit more than you do). No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it still doesn’t get boring with great performances. Only thing I didn’t like was the voice of Sutherland as you already knew what this bad guy looked like before you saw him and it spoilt it a little bit for me.

  5. Good review. I first heard of this movie when for the longest time Jim Carrey was attached to star in it. He finally dropped out and was replaced by Farrell. When I saw the movie I felt that Carrey probably made the right decision.

  6. I loved ‘Phone Booth’! Just reading your review has made me want to go find it again, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it. I always thought it was such a claustrophobic movie even though it’s set in the middle of New York. Farrell was great in it! It takes a true actor to be able to hold the audience’s attention considering he’s on-screen 97% of the time. Casting Sutherland as the shooter was a stroke of brilliance, he brought his A Game.

    A great film, a great review.

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