Phone Booth (2002)

Phone Booth (2002)
  • Time: 81 min
  • Genre: Mystery | Thriller
  • Director: Joel Schumacher
  • Cast: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Katie Holmes


Stu Shepard is an arrogant publicist who thinks he has the whole world in his hands. Every day he uses the same phone booth to call the woman he is cheating on his wife with. But on the last day, before this particular phone booth is demolished, the phone rings. Stu naturally answers the phone, only to find the caller on the end is an invisible sniper who knows everything on Stu, including his relationships. The caller now has Stu as his hostage, who demands he comes clean with his wife.


  • “Phone Booth” – an excellent, suspenseful, scary 2002 film was made in ten days, basically in a phone booth on a New York City street, and the results are amazing. The film had no luck but because of its quality, wound up being very successful. It was held for release the first time because the powers that be wanted Colin Farrell to become well known. When that happened, it was held up again because of the sniper that ran rampant in Washington, D.C. Finally, “Phone Booth” saw the light of day.

    Colin Farrell has a tour de force as Stu Shepard, a fast-talking, low-level, wheeler-dealer publicist who walks the streets of New York talking on his cell phone and fielding other calls with the help of an apprentice publicist who follows him around. Because Shepard is married and his wife sees his cell phone bills, he steps into a an 8th Avenue phone booth to call a young woman (Katie Holmes) he’s attempting to seduce. At this point, he gets a call from a sniper, “Bob” (the voice of Kiefer Sutherland) in a nearby building, and the man has a gun pointed right at him. Shepard can see the laser beam right over his heart. “Bob” apparently been responsible for several street shootings recently. When prostitutes harass Shepard so they can use the phone, their john comes over, and the sniper shoots him. It’s assumed Shephard killed him, and the police are called.

    Farrell does a terrific job as a man who gradually realizes how bad his situation is and is forced by the sniper to do and say what he’s told to do and say – and it’s not always comfortable, particularly when his wife (Radha Mitchell) and almost girlfriend show up. Forest Whitaker is very effective as the captain trying to figure out what’s going on.

    “Phone Booth” was written by Larry Cohen, who after 38 years, is still grinding out excellent product. The company I worked for many years ago used to type his scripts, and I had the privilege of meeting him once in his beautiful New York City home. After writing multiple TV movies and shows for series like “Columbo,” as well as low-level independents, this Joel Schumacher-directed film is a wonderful and deserved coup for him. Don’t miss it.

  • “This guy is getting on my nerves.”

    A precursor to films like Buried (2010), where the lead character spends the entire film in a wooden coffin that is buried deep underground, Phone Booth has Colin Farrell’s character stuck in a phone booth in downtown New York. While that is definitely a much better fate, the film constantly reminds us that a scheming sniper is nearby with his high-powered rifle cocked.

    Penned by Larry Cohen, who also devised a loosely-similar story in Cellular (2004), the conceptual idea behind Phone Booth was once made known by the writer to Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s, but the great master declined to direct.

    Four decades on, Joel Schumacher takes up the hot seat. While not exactly inspiring moviegoers’ confidence in his ability to helm a blockbuster after failures like Batman and Robin (1997) and Bad Company (2002), Schumacher responds by making Phone Booth one of his better films in his resume to date.

    It is by no means a great entry into the suspense-thriller genre, but Phone Booth remains to be entertaining while it lasts. Entirely driven by dialogue, and with loads of coarse language to boot, the film sees Farrell giving one of his best singular performances in a mainstream Hollywood picture.

    His character is developed quite substantially, not only through his interactions with his tormentor, but more interestingly, by how he reacts to an assortment of dilemmas that are thrown at him.

    Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is flashy and dazzling at times, somewhat reminding of his in-your-face, free-styling work that was brilliantly executed in Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (1998) and Requiem for a Dream (2000). He employs a number of low-angle shots on Farrell and the phone booth, as if trying to create a feeling equivalent to some kind of street surveillance.

    The editing also pushes into effect a sense of immediacy and urgency to some of the scenes with the apt use of smaller split-screen frames that show, for instance, a character speaking on the other side of a real-time telephone conversation.

    The entire experience of watching Phone Booth becomes a lesson in pertinent issues regarding invasions of privacy and broadcast ethics. If only the film had been more consistently suspenseful (there are some parts where the tension weakens), then it would be something more than half-decent.

    Verdict: This high-concept film features some sharp dialogue and freewheeling camerawork, but still falls short on being a consistent high-tensioner.

    GRADE: B- (7/10)

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