How can a movie that predominantly takes place inside of a single phone booth possibly be interesting? Well, that is what I’m going to explain today with Joel Schumacher’s film, Phone Booth. This film is a success due to its fine direction, expert editing, and perfect pacing, packed to the brim with suspense and intensity.
Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is not a good person. He is a publicist, who isn’t particularly very good, but still enjoys the multiple lies and trickery needed in order to get ahead. While using a public phone booth to call a possible girlfriend-on-the-side (Katie Holmes), Stu is called by a mysterious man (Kiefer Sutherland), who just so happens to have a highly powerful sniper rifle aimed right at Stu, and will fire on him if he doesn’t obey his every word. Soon, the police arrive and Stu finds himself in a stand-off with the caller and the police.
There are many factors that would have caused Phone Booth to not work as a film. The biggest and most challenging factor is making a film that takes place mainly in a phone booth interesting. To do this, the pacing had to be perfect, and it really is. Not once during the length of this movie did I find myself getting bored. Of course, this is far from being a long film, only clocking in at a little over 80 minutes. This is just the right amount of time to properly introduce the characters, build suspense, and release all of the built suspense in a minute of insanity.
When I think of really good actors, Colin Farrell isn’t one that comes to mind, but after seeing Phone Booth I know that he has the talent to be great. Unfortunately, this isn’t really implemented save for a couple of films like In Bruges. Katie Holmes and Radha Mitchell do alright as Shepard’s love interests. Forest Whitaker gives a very emotional performance as a police chief with an obvious battered past. Kiefer Sutherland is the perfect choice to play the Caller, and he does so with menace and sounds genuinely like a sociopath.
The writer of the film, Larry Cohen, actually pitched the idea of a film centering around a single phone booth to Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s, and Hitchcock thought it was a great idea but neither of them knew how to keep the character trapped in the booth. Cohen came up with the idea for a sniper in the 90s, but more to the point, this film definitely feels like it is a modern day Hitchcock film. The real intensity comes from the suspense and the performances, which is what Hitchcock was all about. Michael Bay was set to direct at one point, and the first question he asked was, “How do we get him out of the phone booth?” Getting Stu out of the booth would have ruined the whole point of the film.
Phone Booth had the potential to be a terribly boring movie, but Schumacher and his crew did a great job at crafting a meticulously good story filled with suspense and questions of morality. Do the sniper’s actions justify the means? Of course not, but the audience of this movie definitely have discussion points after this movie. I can easily recommend Phone Booth to anyone looking for a suspense fully wicked good time.