Movie Reviews
10:39 am
Mon March 31, 2003

Phone Booth

You'll never pass a booth or open your cell again without thinking about this slight but engrossing thriller.

I have just realized my grammar-school teacher Sister Alexia was right when she said confession is good for the soul. Joel Schumacher's "Phone Booth" is a modern morality play about personal disclosure in one exciting short movie making you respect the moral majority's power and suspect the neutrality of any phone call. Colin Farrell plays a publicist hurrying down a NY avenue much as a cocky PR man Cary Grant did in "North by Northwest" with an assistant in tow. Farrrell"s cell phone is the only one he doesn't dismiss in his race to a telephone booth.

Farrell ducks like Superman into a booth to call his mistress (His wife could trace a cell call). Sniper Kiefer Sutherland calls to inform Farrell he is in his sights and must confess his infidelity to his wife or be shot. The righteous in the audience were undoubtedly supporting the anonymous caller's call to confession. A pimp and his hookers try to wrest Farrell from the booth: They are as funny and menacing an ensemble as you will see in any urban story this year.

The gritty street, the onlookers, and the police remind me of the urban realities Sidney Lumet created in a similar film, "Dog Day Afternoon." Forest Whitaker as the cop in charge has a lazy eye perfectly suited to the slow machinations of the law.

Schumaker's camera is active enough as it descends godlike from a satellite through phone lines, finally settling at the booth, gaily moving in and out and about to keep a potentially static one-act story kinetic with danger.

You'll never pass a booth or open your cell again without thinking about this slight but engrossing thriller. Remember, Cary Grant in "NNW" had a hard time escaping the effects of a telephone call.

The film closes showing the pervasiveness of the telephone and its allure. Although "Phone Booth" goes on to show us how insidious modern technology and telephones can be, the story is really about fidelity and truth, both old-fashioned notions with murderous implications here. And confession? Sister Alexia was right--I went deservedly every 2 weeks.