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Phone Booth (2003)

A movie directed by Joel Schumacher

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Get more than your money's worth of nailbiting scenes.

  • Dec 5, 2010
*** out of ****

"Phone Booth" is one of the finest thrillers of this past decade. It nearly defines the term "thriller" in ways that, by Joel Schumacher's standards, should by all means be undiscovered. Why is it so good? Why is a Joel Schumacher film good in the first place? Well, I'll make sure to answer your question. The film is so good because it's actually thrilling. It's not every day that you encounter a film which just never stops (for even a second) after the thrills start to kick in. This is a fast paced, literally talky thriller that has a wide appeal and a lot of star power. Other than that, it's just plain amusing. It's one of those films which takes a tense premise and expands it in good ways. In this case, the premise is more like a "setting", as it takes place within a phone booth for the entire hour and twenty minutes. But it's what happens within the phone booth that really matters. This is a film about coincidences, or what we think to be coincidences anyways. It takes a man and places him in a very tense situation. In this case, there is a mystery caller who non-stop taunts this man in the particular phone booth, ordering him to do certain things and say certain stuff to certain people. It makes for a nice little film overall, although the ending kind of turned down "Phone Booth's" awesomeness by a couple notches. None the less, it still remains an awesome film. I'm pretty much convinced that "Phone Booth" is the best Schumacher film out there (although I haven't seen "Tigerland" or "Flatliners" yet), as well as one of the best modern thrills on the market. It's almost hard to believe that Joel Schumacher, director of the anti-thriller "The Number 23", is the same man who directed this fine piece of entertainment. I guess it's just what I would call "a rather surprising success". But seriously, nothing Joel Schumacher has ever directed can possibly match and/or add up to the awesome quality that's pretty much on display here. Plus, "Phone Booth" features strong lead performances as well as Joel Schumacher's typical stylish visual style. I guess not too much has changed.

Stu Shepard is a secretive and selfish rich guy who just so happens to exist. He is not of importance and that it precisely why he fits the bill of the film's central villain. Stu stops at the only phone booth in New York City so that he can call up the woman who he is secretly seeing. You see, Stu is a married man. Therefore, he is a sinner, although he never takes that into account. Until he comes inside the phone booth. After calling the woman, he receives a call from a man who tells Stu of his ignorance. The caller tells Stu that he needn't leave the phone booth, considering that the man is armed with a sniper rifle and is ready to shoot at any time. Stu, wanting to keep his life, obeys the man and stays within the booth. Sadly, the police get involved when Stu unassumingly grants the caller permission to shoot an angry bystander. Then things get really tense, when the caller continuously taunts Stu in an attempt to get him killed. None the less, the two callers converse for pretty much the whole film. Therefore, there's not a whole lot of progression to be had in the film. The whole movie consists of a guy in a phone booth talking to an unidentified man with a sniper rifle. There are things that the audience is meant to think about, such as "what's the big twist?" or even "who's to fear more?" That's where "Phone Booth" absolutely scores. It's not a thriller that revolves around mindless violence and intense chase sequences, but rather simplicity and plenty of "nail-biting moments". In the end, it defines the term "thriller flick". It is indeed thrilling, and the good news is that it never stops. I found it to be pretty well written considering that not all the twists were predictable. And I won't tell you what these twists are, given that you should be considering watching the film if you even give a damn. Should you want to see it? Yes, I think you should. Will it be worth it? Most likely. "Phone Booth" may not be perfect, but then again how could it be? I guess there's even more thinking to do outside of the film itself, and for that I'm pretty impressed.

Colin Farrell unleashes another one of his energetic, slightly interesting performances as Stu, a (quite literally) man in a phone booth. That's all his character is at the moment, aside from being a cheater, a rich man, and a fellow who is currently being aimed at from a sniper rifle. The character of Stu is good and Farrell is good. Farrell's sense of electrifying, energetic power is just right for this thriller. To his credit, Farrell can do a pretty convincing couple of freak-out sequences. These sequences are pretty much consistent throughout, considering that very few people would cope with such a situation otherwise. "The Caller" is portrayed by the ever so ominous Kiefer Sutherland. There's a certain menacing quality to Sutherland, or even his voice (in this case at least). We never actually see Sutherland until the very end, but his voice should be a performance on its own right. After all, why hate on such a promising actor? Forest Whitaker is as unpredictable and awesome as ever, playing a complete good guy who apparently has more on his mind than we think. The supporting cast is also pretty colorful considering that nobody else aside from those three actors is truly key. In a number of ways, there are the important people and then there are the less important people. At least there are different kinds of people to begin with.

This film is jam-packed with the style that most would expect out of Joel Schumacher. It's got a really nice visual presentation, wonderful cinematography, and a good sense of pace. The film knows what it is. Perhaps that part isn't a Joel Schumacher regular (I mean, look at "The Number 23"), but I still think that "Phone Booth" knows that it's a thriller and therefore does everything that a thriller does. It hits you, and it hits you very hard. The film is technically well constructed in both quality and visual structure. The cinematography is absolutely brilliant and the film's quality is crystal clear. The film's style comes mostly from the cinematography alone, which made the film all the more enjoyable for me personally. I admit it: I like my films visually stunning. There's not a whole lot of music in the film, but from what I heard, the soundtrack was pretty decent. Still, it's nothing to talk about. Unlike "The Lost Boys", this film is not style over substance. Style and substance are served in equally as substantial amounts and therefore the film is balanced enough to work. It's ultimately satisfying in the best ways possible, and therefore "Phone Booth" is a true thriller. This film isn't pretending, imitating, or mocking. Instead, it's honoring the thriller genre for what it is, and on its own right it becomes an extremely convincing modern thriller. Not quite Hitchcock suspense, but then again what is?

While I may not have absolutely loved this film, I still enjoyed "Phone Booth" a whole lot. This ingenious film makes me think that there is perhaps hope for Schumacher as a director, although then again I must consider his directorial flaws. Most of the time, those very flaws put a dent in his films. This time, those flaws are merely a figment of my imagination. And even without them, this is still a Schumacher film. How about that? Astonishing isn't it, that Joel Schumacher can actually make at least one good movie in his lifetime. Perhaps some of his other films are good too and I just haven't explored them yet. That's most likely the case. None the less, I believe that "Phone Booth" will remain my favorite Schumacher film for quite a while indeed. I doubt that anything the guy has on his mind can top what he's done here. In fact, very few directors can craft a thriller so thrilling; a psychological mind game so mind-bending. It's not a gift that Schumacher has, but rather some fortunate and unlikely good luck for the infamously mixed director. As I said in my send-off sentence to "The Lost Boys", "Thank you Joel Schumacher. But I still hate you." Indeed, I still do hate Schumacher. But that doesn't mean I've got to hate every single one of his films. One can make exceptions, can't they?

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December 06, 2010
I actually loved this film, well enough to own it. Great review.
December 06, 2010
Yeah, I admit that I enjoyed it. Eventually, I'll buy it. I buy anything that I find genuinely good.
April 03, 2011
I had mixed feelings about it the first time out but it grew on me....
More Phone Booth (2003) reviews
review by . July 23, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
This film has a good cast, solid performances, and an interesting idea to launch the story. Unfortunately, the plot is thin, too short (less than 90 minutes for a live action movie!), and depends mostly upon the verbal dialogue of a character who is not on screen until the last moments of the film. It also has a somewhat dark ending which may disappoint many viewers (though I think the ending is actually creative by not having a feel good resolution). The film can make the viewer begin to think …
review by . July 14, 2003
You don't know who to root for in this fast-paced modern morality tale, Colin Farrell as the self-absorbed, abusive and manipulative publicist or the murderous and unseen presence voiced by Kieffer Sutherland (with near-perfect syrupy malevelance).Farrell has a routine that utilizes one of the last freestanding phonebooths in New York City to make the phone calls he doesn't want his wife to know about. Unfortunately for him, a high tech sniper with a penchant for morality judgements is all too familiar …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


By some lucky quirk of fate,Phone Boothlanded on Hollywood's A-list, but this thriller should've been a straight-to-video potboiler directed by its screenwriter, veteran schlockmeister Larry Cohen, who's riffing on his own 1976 thrillerGod Told Me To. Instead it's a pointless reunion for fast-rising star Colin Farrell and hisTigerlanddirector, Joel Schumacher, who employs a multiple-image technique similar to TV's24to energize Cohen's pulpy plot about an unseen sniper (maliciously voiced by24's Kiefer Sutherland) who pins his chosen victim (a philandering celebrity publicist played by Farrell) in a Manhattan phone booth, threatening murder if Farrell doesn't confess his sins (including a potential mistress played by Katie Holmes in a thankless role). In a role originally slated for Jim Carrey, Farrell brings vulnerable intensity to his predicament, but Cohen's irresistible premise is too thin for even 81 brisk minutes, which is how long Schumacher takes to reach his morally repugnant conclusion.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Joel Schumacher
Screen Writer: Larry Cohen
DVD Release Date: July 8, 2003
Runtime: 81 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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