Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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Expectations ran high for Phone Booth, and you know how dangerous that can be. Well, I'm more than glad to turn myself in as "just another fanatic" and award this movie the rating of perfection that it so rightly deserves. Call it bandwagon jumping, but if Colin Farrell's in the band, then I got four words -- How much for rent?
There's no denying it anymore, Colin Farrell is the king. The guy's got looks, he's got charisma, and based on his performance in Phone Booth, he's got acting ability coming out of his ears. Being trapped in a phone booth, obviously he had to rely more on facial acting than body language. Well that face gets one serious workout, as does your sanity. Not only does the movie make you feel like you're in his position, but it will frustrate you just as it frustrates him. When multiple conversations start to happen, you'll want to pull your hair out -- but not to worry, it doesn't go over your head! It manages to be both riveting and easy to follow. Lord knows how much pressure that had to be for writer Larry Cohen.
So I guess you'd like to know about the movie, huh? Well, I had a few things that I was wondering about the movie going in. And what I thought I'd do here is just make a little mini-FAQ. I won't spoil anything, I promise. And yes, things actually happen in this movie despite its claustrophobic setting. First thing I wondered about was this...
How long does it take to get to the actual "phone booth" part?
I know, I probably sound like a total idiot asking these dumbass third grade questions, but it's something I think people might worry about. With all the "false advertising" in movie trailers these days, one can't help but wonder how true "Phone Booth" really will be to its trailer. Out of 80 minutes, I would've been happy if even 45 or 50 minutes of it took place in the phone booth, 'cause even THAT is a lot of talking, ya know? As it turns out, he will be there by the ten-minute mark.
And is that where the rest of the movie takes place?
Absolutely. Up until about the last two or three minutes.
So there aren't any subplots that we cut away to?
Not at all. The whole thing is right there at the phone booth. With the obvious exception of conversations that take place amongst the people gathered around outside of the booth, the entire movie is right there, on the scene. The suspense does not stop, seriously, it does not. You think there aren't enough ideas in existence to keep something like this interesting? Well think again.
So what do they talk about all that time?
Well that's basically what the movie is about. It's about deception, it's about placing the blame, it's about taking the blame, it's about lying, it's about what to leave in and what to leave out. It's about a guy who can't say a thing for fear of being killed. It's about simultaneously appeasing two sets of expectations being hoisted upon your shoulders at once. It's about character development, at least for one character anyway. It's about staying calm in the face of immense frustration. I said it once and I'll say it again, the movie is frustrating to watch, and that's what makes it so damn fun! Thriller? Drama? Hrmph, those are understatements if I've ever seen 'em.
Do we ever see Keifer Sutherland (the voice on the phone)?
Don't make me go there. Fine, yeah.
Okay, what about the first ten minutes. Is it slow?
Well, yeah. Most of the first ten minutes probably will go over your head, as you got Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell), a master of public relations, walking around the streets with his Padawan learner, Adam (Keith Nobbs). Both guys are on cell phones, and Stu is making calls to about eight different people, telling them of how he is going to make them famous. If you don't completely pick up on everything there, don't worry about it; it's almost completely irrelevant. It is merely an introduction to Stu's fast-talking demeanor and confidence in himself. (Your overconfidence is your weakness...) Thinking back to the beginning, it is startling how well Farrell was able to pull off the transformation. He emerges a different man than who he was at first. I'll stop now before I, erm, shoot myself in the footh... FOOT.
A few other questions that have emerged in the comments section....
Does Colin Farrell ever take off his shirt?
Nah, it just comes untucked. LOL
One thing though, it is weird seeing someone in a phone booth when big business is practically dying to GIVE you cell phones these days.
Great point. There is actually a reason he is at the phone booth; it ends up being pretty important...
So, about those other characters...
Forest Whitaker is the "nice cop". He's always the nice guy, isn't he? But do watch for a moment when he lashes out and pushes a guy. It's quite unexpected. Although none of his other roles that I've seen had him in the police force, I think the role of a police officer suits him well. I had no trouble whatsoever imagining him as a real cop, probably because he reminds me of Reginald VelJohnson, who played a cop/father in the TV show Family Matters. He holds his own alongside Farrell, and his expressive face works well in a movie where facial expression is, at times, an integral part of the communication taking place between characters.
Radha Mitchell and Katie Holmes play Stu's wife Kelly, and secret love Pam, respectively. Of course the secret love is always younger, less plain looking, and not as conservative a dresser. These two ladies were perfect in their respective parts, even though they don't get to do much. Katie Holmes always lights up the screen when she shows up, she's just so darn cute. Radha Mitchell is perfectly normal as a jaded wife in a jaded life, but she makes her character both believable and likable.
Dell Yount who played "Roadkill" in Joyride gets a minor role as a nameless pizza delivery guy. Get this, when Stu first gets in the phone booth he is soon approached by this guy, who is delivering pizza, to a phone booth. I'm sorry but that's the funniest damn thing I've seen in a movie all year. Farrell kind of underplays his reaction, and makes it even funnier. I actually found myself laughing at a lot of the conversation throughout the first half of the movie; there is a great deal of irony to much of it.
Joel Schumacher's direction is beautiful. He keeps the movie flowing at a steady pace. A lot of times, it's just the little things like a perfect camera angle or a misleading statement. It's all about timing, about slowing down and offering some conversation to assess the increasingly disquiet situation, then pushing it along just a little bit more. I also like the way the movie ends the same way it starts with the zoom-in on the satellite in space, all the way down to New York City, and the same shot played backwards at the end. The whole thing is just beautiful.
If you like movies, you'll like Phone Booth. That's all there is to it. Voices of dissent, we shall respect you. But we shall also call you crazy behind your backs!
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Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older