R (for language, violence and sexual references)
1 hr. 20 minutes
Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest
Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, and Katie Holmes
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By Elliott Ryan
- "Operator, give me information,
information, give me long distance;
long distance, give me heaven.
Oh, Operator, information,
give me Jesus on the line."
Phone Booth has been called a religious morality play by some. Indeed, from
the first lines of the opening song ("Operator" by William Spivery),
the religious imagery begins. As the above song plays, the movie opens
with a shot of a satellite up in the heavens looking down at earth. There
is so much religious imagery involved in the film that it almost makes
me wish I could recommend this movie. But I can't. Let me explain why.
The well-acted movie raised a lot of interesting questions, but offered few
answers. The film is rated R for language, violence, and sexual references,
all of which abound throughout the 80-minute drama.
The movie, made a few years ago, had its release date pushed back several
times (most recently because of the DC sniper last year). Colin Farrell
stars as Stu Shepard, a dishonest publicist who is held hostage in a phone
booth. Apparently a crazed serial killer has been listening in on calls
made from the last enclosed phone booth in New York (you know -- the kind
Clark ducks into to change into Superman). The killer has an apparent
God-complex and feels it is his duty to make callers pay for their sins.
While listening in on Stu's conversations, the killer realizes Stu is only
using the booth instead of his cell phone to call his girlfriend because
his wife would see the repeated calls to his girlfriend on the cell phone
bill. Once Stu is done talking to his girlfriend in the phone booth, the
phone rings. Stu instinctively picks it up. The voice on the other line
is the killer hidden in a building across the street who will kill Stu
if he hangs the phone up. For the rest of the movie, we see Stu held hostage
as the police, Stu's wife, Stu's girlfriend and the media try to figure
out what is going on.
Colin Farrell did an excellent job of carrying this movie. And he had to.
He was in almost every scene and almost every conversation. Farrell took
this role after it was originally offered to Jim Carrey. Forrest Whitaker
did a great job as the police captain. Keifer Sutherland did an admirable
job as the voice of the killer on the phone. An actor needed to be found
who could get across the emotions and motivations of the killer without
using body language and facial expressions since the killer goes mostly
unseen in the movie. Sutherland was able to do that well.
As previously mentioned, the movie contains numerous depictions of religious
imagery. The killer has a high view looking down at his would-be victim in
the phone booth. He seems to know everything about Stu's life and is determined
to make Stu pay for his sins. He obviously sees himself as a God-like being.
Of course, the fact that he is a serial killer makes one think perhaps he
should worry about the plank in his own eye before worrying about the speck
Unfortunately, unbelievers often view God in a similar light as they would
view the serial killer in this movie. They see Him as an all-knowing being
ready to destroy them for their sins. Of course, the biblical view of
God reconciles God's righteous justice with His love and salvation that
is freely offered to all people.
Sin and repentance is also discussed a great deal in the film. An ad behind
the phone booth promotes a perfume entitled "penance." A billboard
on a nearby building reads "Who do you think you are?" The evils
of worldliness are represented by a group of strippers who desire to use
the phone booth that Stu is hogging, and by the phone book in the booth
which happens to be open to a page advertising abortions. When he finally
escapes the phone booth, Stu extends both arms in a crucifix type pose.
He is soon resurrected in the arms of his wife who still loves him in
spite of the confessions he made to her at gun point while in the phone
All of this religious imagery made me wonder what the film maker was trying
to say. This is the conclusion I arrived at: I don't know.
While the movie is an interesting morality play, it isn't the type of film
Christians in general would want to see. Over a hundred profanities fill the
dialogue of the movie. The movie also contains a great amount of violence
and references to sexuality. This is definitely not a film for young viewers.
Perhaps it shouldn't be for the rest of us either.
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