Ok, the movie is a trick, a setup. A Manhattan publicist, Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell), is trapped in a phone booth by a sniper. What’s next? Says screenwriter Larry Cohen: You bring his wife (Radha Mitchell) and girlfriend (Katie Holmes) to the scene, have a murder and add the police (Forest Whitaker). The trick comes in pinning us to our seats for eighty-two minutes so that we don’t consider the holes in the plot until later.
Director Joel Schumacher, with the help of the gifted cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Pi, Requiem for a Dream), makes a tight, tense job of it. And casting Farrell, his Tigerland star, was inspired. Farrell is a dynamo. And Kiefer Sutherland, whose sniper role is essentially a voice on the phone, matches Farrell subtle shift for subtle shift. Phone Booth, a New York story shot mostly in L.A., doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but no way will it put you to sleep.