The Christian Broadcasting Network



Email Updates

Latest entertainment articles and reviews. Subscribe

Weekly top stories and videos. Subscribe

Movie Info


R (for language, violence and sexual references)


April 2003


1 hr. 20 minutes




Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, and Katie Holmes


Larry Cohen


Joel Schumacher


Fox Pictures


Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.


Phone Booth

By Elliott Ryan
Guest Columnist - "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 in Stu's.

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 booth.

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.

  • Translate
  • Print Page

Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?

A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.

Do You Know Jesus
Grow In Your Faith

Need Prayer?

Call 1-800-700-7000
Email your prayer request

Email iconSign up for E-mail Updates Full List