I like the idea of films shot withiin a very short shooting schedule. More planning seems necessary, and fat is trimmed. Edward Burns shot "Sidewalks of New York" in a matter of 17 days, which seemed like an impressive time, given the look and overall quality of the production. However, last year a director topped that speed - and it was certainly the one I'd least expect. Although the simple plot attracted a series of stars and directors, including Michael Bay, Jim Carrey, Will Smith, it was Joel Schumacher, the much-hated director of the last two "Batman" pictures and the terrible recent "Bad Company", who shot "Phone Booth", an 81-minute thriller, in a matter of ten days.
"Phone Booth" focuses on a fairly simple morality tale: Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is a fast-talking, slick PR rep who has a beautiful wife (Rhada Mitchell) and a girlfriend/client (Katie Holmes). He calls his girlfriend from one of the last remaining phone booths in the city at the same time each day. One particular day, he is rude to a pizza delivery person while making the daily call. When he hangs up the phone with his girlfriend, the phone rings again. Stu answers the phone, only to find that a sniper is focused on the booth - one who knows a great deal about him and how he's been cheating on his wife.
When things get worse, the police are called in, lead by a captain (Forest Whitaker) who demands that Stu hang up the phone and step out of the booth - something he can't do. Although the simple premise doesn't suggest much success, the film keeps throwing in new turns and the filmmakers do much to help things remain involving. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who worked with Schumacher on the similarly low-budget "Tigerland", not only gives the film a surreal, gritty look, but the camera movement gives the film an urgency and intensity. Harry Gregson-Williams, whose tense score added to "Spy Game", brings a similarly dark, sleek techno sound to his work here that adds suspense.
The performances are stellar, as well. Farrell, who Schumacher found for "Tigerland", is suitably intense in the role, portraying the fast-talking Stu in the early scenes and the panic of the booth sequences. Sutherland's digitally altered (or at least it sounds as if some work was done) voice is remarkably menacing. Forest Whitaker provides good support, while Katie Holmes and Rhada Mitchell are enjoyable in their few scenes.
Overall, "Phone Booth" isn't without some concerns (the film zips past a few plot holes), but it's a good, tense (and unique) thriller that moves along rapidly at 81 minutes.
VIDEO: "Phone Booth" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame. Each of the two editions have their own single-layered side of a dual-layer disc. Matthew Libatique's dark, gritty cinematography looks quite nice on this transfer, which only shows a few very minor concerns. Sharpness and definition looked very strong, as fine details were often visible and sharpness remained consistent.
Compression artifacts weren't spotted, but a tad of edge enhancement was spotted here and there. Although nothing too considerable, enough to be worth noting. The film's color palette remained cold, blue-tinted and subdued throughout, but appeared accurately rendered. Overall, aside from a couple of issues, the picture looked superb and similar to what I saw theatrically.
SOUND: "Phone Booth" is presented by 20th Century Fox in Dolby Digital 5.1. While not quite demo material, this is a fun and entertaining sound design done by Tim Walston ("The Fast and the Furious", "The Core") and the rest of the film's sound artists. There are noticable sound effects in the surrounds as the film zips in from a satellite in the opening of the film, as well as ambience in the rear speakers during several scenes. However, the most effective part of the soundtrack is Sutherland's voice, which often fills the room. Audio quality is superb, as Gregson-Williams's score sounds dynamic and deep throughout, while dialogue and effects remained crisp and clear.
Commentary: Director Joel Schumacher provides an audio commentary for the film. This is an okay commentary, but I was hoping for something more. The director does touch on the topic of trying to shoot a movie in about 10 days, but I was hoping for more details about the planning that has to go into a production like that. The director instead spends much of the time discussing casting, acting and character issues. Although he does add a touch of humor and presents these topics in an interesting manner, I was hoping for something more technical in this case.
Also: Trailers for Fox's "Garage Days" and "Phone Booth".
Final Thoughts: A tense and effective thriller, "Phone Booth" is fast-paced, involving and offers a strong lead performance from Farrell. Fox's DVD doesn't present much in the way of supplements (a documentary about how the film was able to be shot in 10 days would have been nice), but does present the film with very good audio/video quality. Recommended.