11/23/13

PHONE BOOTH - REVIEW


Film premises don't get much simpler than that.

A dude answers the phone in a phone booth and ends up being kept there by a maniacal sniper-wielding stranger who makes him do whatever he wants and sounds exactly like Jack Bauer. The entire film takes place, you've guessed it, in and around a single phone booth and attempts a Hitchcockian thriller within that limited setting.

Colin Farrell plays the put-upon Stu, a douchy New York publicist "romantically" interested in one of his clients, played by the reliably squeaky-voiced Katie Holmes, despite being married. The voice on the phone, Kiefer Sutherland's voice that is, forces Stu into making awkward, morally grey decisions and the suspense rests on both whether Stu is smart enough to pull through and whether Sutherland's creep is as truly insane as he seems. It's unclear what the mysterious caller wants so, as the viewer, you're left to slowly make your mind up about that, which really helps build tension. With an appropriately short running time, Phone Booth attempts a Rear Window-style concept and delivers a clever little modern thriller with a solid amount of suspenseful moments and good performances all around, although Farrell's final emotional breakdown does feel a little heav-handed. Cinematography-wise, the film looks slick and, instead of going for a traditional split-screen thing, it goes the 24 route and inserts little squares of conversations into the action, thereby never really leaving the main setting. Making a film set outdoors feel claustrophobic by limiting its main character to a phone booth and shooting it somewhat erratically without ever succumbing to shaky-cam was a clever idea and director Joel Schumacher does well getting the most out of it, showing once again that, even though making Batman movies isn't his forte, he can still make a cool thriller now and then.

The police captain trying to make sense of Stu's erratic behaviour is played by Forest Whitaker, who gives a convincing performance as the one person smart enough to guess that Colin Farrell's character might not be stuck in this phone booth for shits and giggles. Sutherland's faceless shooter shows early on that he's hardly afraid to kill someone as a heated encounter between Stu, a pimp and a couple of prostitutes wanting to use the phone soon turns ugly, thereby prompting the police to get involved. Phone Booth is an interesting character piece and its focus on its main protagonists doesn't feel forced: you want to know what these guys are really about as the film slowly breaks down their personalities, revealing their true selves by the end of it. That writer Larry Cohen soon turned this movie into a franchise without actually turning it into a franchise is pretty funny as some of his follow-ups included Cellular, Connected and Messages Deleted. Who knew that the man behind the It's Alive movies would end up specialising in phone thrillers? Shot in only 10 days, Phone Booth gets the right balance between introducing a new concept and delivering a nail-biting little thriller with just enough to it that you stay glued to your seat genuinely wanting to know the film's conclusion.

Overall, I'd say Phone Booth is certainly worth a watch. It's an intense concept thriller with very good central performances by Farrell and Sutherland at its heart and is further proof that, as goofy as some Joel Schumacher films can be, there's still the odd good one to look out for.

Short and sweet.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts