A Good Man Is Hard to Find at the Movies
Note: This week's scheduled focus on Ed Solomon's Levity has been postponed because the film's release has been pushed back to April 26th.
Last week, Film Forum focused on the new Joel Schumacher film Phone Booth. The thriller's simple, suspenseful plot places Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell), a self-centered Manhattan publicist, in a phone booth at a busy intersection where a sniper (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) holds him as a long-distance hostage. From an unknown hiding place in one of the countless skyscraper windows around him, the villain gives Stu orders over the phone, forcing him to appear as a deranged and murderous gunman (false) and reveal himself as an unfaithful husband (nearly true.)
Religious press critics differ on whether the film is a significant morality play or merely sensationalized suspense. Some are impressed by the story's strong moral lesson, but others find it rather distastefully delivered.
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says it "has a message which can be easily traced back to the scriptures. Stu is being forced to recognize a spiritual reality that will eventually face us all."
David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus) raves, "Not since Daredevil has there been a film with so much spiritual symbolism in it. The phone booth … serves as a confessional. The sniper being perched high up in a skyscraper is very godlike. This is a story about judgment, confession, and redemption. The sniper wants Stu to call his wife and confess his unfaithfulness—doing penance." Bruce then highlights a symbolically Christ-like progression, a death and resurrection of sorts, and he concludes, "Could any film be more dead-on with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?"
Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) agrees that it "makes moral statements that reflect Scriptural truth. But there's way too much static on the line. Violence, nonstop obscenities and other crass dialogue make seeing Phone Booth a bad call." Bob Nusser (Preview) agrees: "The overall language and violence call for moviegoers to stay away from Phone Booth."
Michael Medved (Crosswalk) reports, "The moral message about the importance of marriage, honesty, and ordinary decency comes across with unexpected force, though the movie never fully answers its own questions about the caller's identity, motivations, and desires."
Geri Pare (Catholic News Service) says, "It's … the audience's misfortune that [this story] is played out in such a profane manner and with logical inconsistencies, like why Stu's wife seems so blissfully unaware that he is one nasty individual. Schumacher tries to keep the deliberately claustrophobic visuals compelling by using split screens, but by its double-twist ending viewers may question whether this was a call worth answering."
Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter) complains that the film's limited focus reminds him of the critically maligned Speed 2, which based all of its action on a cruise ship.
But Holly McClure (Crosswalk) says, "If it's hard for you to imagine how an entire movie could be made about a man in a phone booth, go see this movie. You won't be disappointed! I enjoyed [it] for the many truths it brought out about human nature; we can all see ourselves in Stu! This is a good story for married couples to see because it emphasizes the importance of truth and true love in a relationship."
Movieguide's critic says, "Schumacher … does a masterful job of holding the viewer's interest for such a long time at one single location. It was a curiosity to see if the story, location, direction, and acting could carry the story of one man in a phone booth … and they do." But the reviewer criticizes the film's harsh language and adds, "The other major problem with the movie is relating to Stu, who, for the most part, is a detestable person who's being threatened by an even more detestable human being."