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Phone Booth

September 6, 2010

Phone Booth (2002)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Actors: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker

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Synopsis: Stuart Shepard (Colin Farrell), a hyperactive New York publicist, is trapped in a Times Square phone booth by a psychopathic sniper.

Review: Screenwriter Larry Cohen hit on an ingenious, pulp idea for a thriller when he penned the simple scenario to Phone Booth – a man terrorised by a sniper, and trapped in a Manhattan telephone kiosk. To some extent the story receives apt treatment from Joel Schumacher with the running-time being suitably lean (honouring the taut, pared-down spirit of the premise), while the street-level kineticism of the situation is conveyed well in the frenetic editing, split-screen storytelling, the busy Times Square location, and the decent performance from Colin Farrell who suits the material with his instinctive approach to acting.

The only shame about the production is the nagging sense that more could have been done with the little intricacies of the scenario. It feels more like a first draft than a finely-tuned dramatic screenplay, and some of the moralistic and sentimental threads of the film feel underbaked. It’s also arguable that the film might have benefited even more from a more cerebral directorial approach, rather than Joel Schumacher’s pulpy-techno style. That said, the sheer pull of the tense narrative is undeniable, and the choice to record Kiefer Sutherland’s voice as not literally a muffled sound on the phone but as an artificially ‘heightened’, dramatic instrument of terror, is a clever one. (June 2009)

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