This is one of my favorite movies. I have actually seen it five times. An unusal movie coming out from Hollywood.
Stu Shepherd is in public relations and uses lies and deceit everyday in his job to get things moving. When calling a client from a phone booth in the hope of getting her to a hotel. When he hangs up the phone rings and he answers to what he assumes is a prank call. However the caller reveals more and more about Stu exposing his lies. When Stu tries to leave the caller reveals that he has Stu pinned down with a sniper rifle and the death of a man by the booth proves it. The police arrive and surround Stu while the caller continues his game.
Everyone knows that it had a small budget, a shooting window of just over a week and that it was made years ago and shelved as Farrell's star power increased and real life terrorist attacks and snipers came and went in the media and the mind of the American public. So I'll not dwell on that and instead talk of the film! The pitch was enough to get me interested – `man is held in phone box by sniper' – sounds great! I really wanted to see this film but was put off by the trailer, but not of the films I saw wrong in the trailer were to the detriment of the film as over 80-odd minutes it really runs like a race horse.
Starting with humour and a free-flowing pace it turns sinister early on but keeps the pace. In terms of plot it has many good twists and turns that will keep you interested and on the edge of your seat. The only issue for me was accepting why the sniper was doing it and how he was able to get access to the equipment he would have needed as well as the information – not to mention the WILL to do it! Also little things bugged me, but the film carries itself over these obstacles well enough and reservations are soon forgotten. It sounds simple but the simple ideas work best and, although low on action (sorry, teen boys!) it is driven by dialogue and simply not knowing what will come next.
The direction helps the film by constantly moving and using split screens etc to give the impression that a lot is going on at once – again making the film feel like it has a fast pace. It feels a little gimmicky (especially now that we've had 2 series of 24 doing the same thing) but it works regardless. I wrote in an old review (8mm I think) that I would never pay to see a Joel Schumacher film ever again, and I DIDN'T pay to see Phone Booth! However I was surprised because he didn't ruin it! He did a good job – yes, you heard me! His usual excesses seem to have been controlled by a good producer and editing team and the film works – much to my surprise and relief!
Farrell may not be a bona-fide Hollywood star yet but he takes the task of being onscreen for almost the whole film and runs with it. He makes a comically cruel character someone that reveals himself to be a loser but never loses the audience – and that takes talent. Sutherland's voice on the trailer didn't work for me (too normal and slow) but in the film he is excellent, like the director said, no-one else could have done the role, he is right for it. Whitaker makes up the third lead and he holds his corner well.
It may not be without the odd flaw but this film manages to be simple, gripping and very effective. Well worth a look.