Phone Booth (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is a publicist, but he spends more time on himself than his group of clients. He makes calls, sends faxes, and conducts in person visits, but he only helps his clients to further his own ends. Such is the nature of business, but Stu lies more than he should and in the case of one client, he puts his own marriage on the line. The one call he makes on a public phone instead of his cellular phone, to keep his wife in the dark, is to this client and she is Pam McFadden (Katie Holmes), a beautiful young actress. Stu even removes his wedding band when he calls Pam, as she has no idea that he is married and if Stu has his way, she will never learn the truth about his personal life. He calls from the same phone booth each day, to talk with her and get her to meet him at a hotel. But after he hangs up the phone on this day, it rings again and this time, its not a beautiful young woman on the other end. The voice belongs to an unknown man in a building nearby, who is holding a high powered rifle aimed right at Stu. If he doesn’t do as the sniper demands, Stu will be shot dead, as has happened to several others. The sniper even shoots a man trying to force Stu out of the booth, which causes the police to arrive. Can Stu manage to escape this situation alive, or will the sniper have the final say in the matter?

A man trapped in a phone booth, surrounded by police and held in place by a sniper, sounds almost believable. I mean, we wouldn’t be shocked if we tuned into the news and watched such a spectacle unfold, right? So Phone Booth has a sense of potential realism and that could have been an edge to build on. And to its credit, the movie retains that realistic texture and stays plausible, as no highwire acts or swerves get tossed in. Of course, some twists and turns are found in Phone Booth, but they’re expected ones to an extent and none are implausible, which allows the tension and atmosphere to remain effective. Joel Schumacher (Tigerland, Falling Down) directs here and he shot Phone Booth in under a dozen days, which is quite a feat in this case. The rushed timetable held the cast & crew on a tight shoot, which resulted in a basic, no frills production and that worked to enhance the film’s impact. The tension steams from the performances, as if the sense of urgency from the shoot itself spills inside the movie’s atmosphere. Phone Booth is a solid tension flick in most respects, but in the end, it fails to fulfill its potential. The final turn of events is as lame as can be, while the voice of the sniper sounds too refined, like he’s reading his lines from a recording studio instead of over a telephone line. Even so, Phone Booth is a brisk and enjoyable picture, so if you’re interested, give this disc a rental. Fox’s Blu-ray version has enhanced audio-visual elements and the same extras as the standard release, so if you’re a fan of the movie, this edition is superior in all respects and warrants an upgrade.

This movie boasts an impressive cast, but most have limited screen time, as Colin Farrell is the featured worker here. The camera is almost always focused on Farrell and when it isn’t, it cuts back without much delay. So he has to carry this one himself, though his gifted costars turn in good work when given the chance. Farrell has to be a less than likable character, so he is a natural and handles the role with ease. Once the tension kicks in however, he has to go from confident to a man who has lost his entire world. He gives a passable effort from that point, but I do think someone else might have shown more depth. A few tears and some sad looks aren’t enough at times, as the situation demands real, believable emotion. I think Farrell is a solid worker in most respects, but I do think he was the wrong choice for this role. He is decent and hands in an acceptable effort, but this one needed a little something more. Other films with Farrell include Tigerland, Minority Report, Daredevil, American Outlaws, Hart’s War, and The Recruit. The cast also includes Forest Whitaker (The Crying Game, Panic Room), Radha Mitchell (Everything Put Together, Pitch Black), and Katie Holmes (The Ice Storm, Teaching Miss Tingle).

Video: How does it look?

Phone Booth is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie has a rough, gritty texture, so that means grain is present, but that isn’t bad news. The visuals are enhanced by the intentional grain, making some scenes come off as almost documentary-like. That adds to the real world feel and adds to the experience, no doubt. A variety of visual tricks are put to use here, so some scenes look crisp and sharp, while others have that rougher edge instead. But without question, this new transfer puts the standard one to shame in all regards, with a more refined, accurate presentation. This might not be the kind of movie to show off your high definition system, but the film’s visual design looks excellent here.

Audio: How does it sound?

The DTS HD soundtrack is terrific, but doesn’t offer a massive improvement. I noticed more surround presence and more power at times, but there isn’t a world of difference here. The surround channels match up the people’s vocals to their place on screen, which is kind of fun at first, to be sure. I know it sounds cheese laden, but it goes well and makes for a more active soundtrack. The surrounds also come to life when added presence is needed, which isn’t too often in this case. But when extra kick is called for, this track supplies it in liberal doses. The rest of the elements come across well also, such as traditional dialogue and the film’s musical score. So as I said, this is an improved audio treatment, but don’t expect a huge step up. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The same two supplements from the standard version are back, so fans should be pleased. This disc includes a solid audio commentary with director Joel Schumacher, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer. Schumacher’s session covers the rushed production, the themes touched upon in the movie, and other production topics. He brings a good sense of humor to the track also, so it proves to be a fun, informative session.

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