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Phone Booth ****
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Starring Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker
Directed by Joel Schumacher


"Phone Booth" is a morality play with a twist, it's in real time and we're witness to the thrills that stem from it.  The film makes use of its superb cast headed by Colin Farrell, top-notch writing and a concept that keeps the audience riveted.
Farrell plays Stuart "Stu" Shephard, a arrogant New York publicist who makes his living off of his ability to lie.  But, it's his lies in his personal life that provoke a sniper (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) to call him at a pay phone and threaten to kill him if he hangs up.  Stu learns as we do, through the sniper's dialogue, that the deaths of several men over recent months were not random, they were death sentences delivered by the sniper for sins committed in secret. 
Stu dismisses the voice on the other end of the phone line as just another crazy New Yorker wacko who needs someone to hear their rants, but it soon becomes evident that the caller is very serious with very real motives.
What follows is an exercise in concept filmmaking. The story is told from beginning to end in real time, everything occurring on screen as it unfolds in the story. Stu must decide whether his lies are more important to him than the lives of his loved ones, and it's that question that keeps us glued to the screen, waiting for any unexpected moment to flash onscreen.
It's the concept and the acting that will be referenced in coming years in high regards. Farrells performance as Stu is nothing short of amazing.  Without a actor to make Stu believable, the movie falls apart and the audience is left wanting.  But, Farrell does not disappoint.  His intensity lights up the screen.  He's at his best when he's under pressure as he was in "The Recruit" and "Hart's War."  He's just so intense that we as the audience cannot take our eyes off of him.  It's a great performance in the first great film of 2003.
It's Farrell's show, but the supporting cast is terriffic in smaller, less flashy roles, especially Forest Whitaker.  Whitaker has the ability to add dimension to roles that aren't necessarily written in, he just has a knack for making his characters interesting. He gets a good character as a police captain in "Phone Booth," and possibly the only one wh ocan save Stu from the sniper's bullet.
Kiefer Sutherland is given the rare task of letting his voice be an entire character. The audience has to believe the character and Sutherland's voice and the screenwriter's words are the only tools available.  Sutherland is always mysterious and one step ahead of everyone else, including the audience.
Director Joel Schumacher can make useless dreck with the best of them ("Batman and Robin"), and make good movies noticably flawed ("Flatliners")  But, Schumacher does neither with "Phone Booth." He makes a great movie great with tight direction and allowing the action to be character driven and void of contrived explosions and catchphrases.  He gets the job done.
"Phone Booth" won't be remembered come Oscar time in 2004, but it's deserving.  It's a thriller that thrills and keeps a great performance by Farrell visible throughout.  

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