Rewatched Aug 14, 2012
Tony Black’s review:
If it wasn't fact that Phone Booth was directed by the same man who gave us Batman & Robin just a few short years earlier, you'd think it might be the stuff of madness. Yet indeed the same Joel Schumacher who gave us that crime against cinema also delivered this; one of the tightest, punchiest and effective thrillers you're likely to see. He makes a concept that had no right to work on film tick with compelling drama, urgency and tension.
Outside of Schumacher's lensing, credit for its success surely has to rest with two men. First, Colin Farrell who truly shows us what he's made of as an actor here; he takes Larry Cohen's strong screenplay and runs with it, deconstructing a walking ego into a scared, regretful haunted figure who by the end is a shell of the man who saunters on screen at the beginning. Secondly, Kiefer Sutherland, who we may only glimpse once in person yet provides a crucial vein of psychosis as the mysterious sniper who pins Farrell to the eponymous booth; he's chilling, funny and complex all in equal measure, the silky Sutherland brogue creepy enough to really pull off such a crazed puppet master. Their performances are the rock and both are superb, keeping us as compelled as Schumacher's work - it takes skill to make a solid hour of running time set around a solitary phone box not drag or repeat itself, but his direction manages it, always finding a fresh angle or POV to trick us into forgetting the solitary surroundings; though of course that's the point and truly makes the film unique - Schumacher using the setting as a prism to provide the films central message about greed and morality gone wrong in this new century. It does bludgeon us as a diatribe to some extent, Sutherland's character a bit more obvious at moments than the writer hopes, but it makes him a more interesting villain. It's just a shame Schumacher can't quite make Radha Mitchell or Katie Holmes, the women in Farrell's life, play meatier parts or indeed cash in a little more, character wise, on Forest Whitaker's earnest cop.
It's a very short but very solid movie though, Phone Booth. Directed with a skill and restraint that I had no idea Joel Schumacher possessed, it's a great idea made unfeasibly workable by his grasp of how to effectively present the narrative and indeed a pair of tour-de-force performances from Farrell and Sutherland. One that will keep you on the edge of your seat as well as make you think.