Phone Booth (2002)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 10-Nov-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Joel Schumacher (Director)
Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 77:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (34:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Joel Schumacher
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Colin Farrell
Kiefer Sutherland
Forest Whitaker
Radha Mitchell
Katie Holmes
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Harry Gregson-Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Phone Booth is quite a remarkable movie in one respect - it was filmed in a mere ten days. Directed by Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin, 8MM) and starring Colin Farrell (Tigerland, Minority Report), it manages to sustain a high level of tension throughout its short sub-80 minute running time.

    Farrell plays Stu Shephard, a deceitful publicity agent for celebrities and actors in New York City. His daily routine involves striding the city streets, playing magazines and newspapers off against each other in order to provide a suitable level of media hype for his clients. He does this via a brace of mobile phones, juggled eagerly by his wide-eyed and unpaid personal assistant Adam (the unfortunately named Keith Nobbs), who follows him along the street like a puppy. Each day, Stu eschews his mobile phones to make a single call from a phone booth on 53rd and 8th - to one Pamela McFadden (Katie Holmes). Before making the call, he removes his wedding ring and then commences to try and charm Pam into his bed. Unfortunately for Stu, this immoral behaviour has been the subject of scrutiny from a mysterious stalker.

    On this fateful day, Stu makes his regular phone booth call to Pam only to have a pizza delivery man turn up with an order made out to "the guy in the phone booth". Dismissing the man as part of a prank, Stu is intrigued when the payphone rings back immediately after he hangs up. Stu's day begins a terrifying downward spiral, as it becomes apparent that the Caller knows some significant details about Stu's private life. He knows his wife's name (Kelly) and where she works, he knows that Stu is a liar, and he knows that Stu has been trying to bed the young actress Pam. The Caller makes Stu a prisoner within the phone booth when he reveals - all too graphically - that he has a sniper rifle, complete with laser scope trained on him from one of the hundreds of surrounding windows. When a prostitute cannot get Stu to leave "her office", she sets her pimp onto him, who tries to forcibly eject Stu from the booth. Unable to think clearly, and in fear of his life, Stu gives the word to the Caller to shoot the pimp.

    Everyone believes of course, that Stu is the man responsible for the shooting of the pimp, so he faces potential death from not just the Caller, but also the numerous police marksmen who surround the phone booth. The film plays out with Stu subjected to mental torture and constant physical threat, whilst police, media and both Pam and his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) join the growing crowd of spectators watching Stu, trapped within the booth.

    The performance of Farrell is extremely good, and I must admit I was amazed to discover that his faultless New York accent masked a native Irish brogue. The film really does belong to him, as he appears on screen for virtually the entire movie, with the other actors merely providing some background support. The Caller is well played by Kiefer Sutherland, but I found Forest Whitaker's performance as the police Captain sent to try and extricate Stu rather superficial and somewhat trite.

    The cinematography is quite stylish, although verging on the gimmicky, with picture-in-picture shots aplenty for the various telephone conversations, split screen effects and fast motion galore. The shots of Farrell in the booth are well done, and manage to evoke a suitable sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. Particularly impressive is the set design - other than the opening shots, all of the filming was carried out on the streets of Los Angeles, but it looks for all the money like New York City.

    Phone Booth manages to sustain a high level of tension throughout, with a novel and intriguing basic plot. My main criticism of the film is the lack of exposition of Stu's vices prior to his imprisonment in the phone booth. Sure, he is a spin doctor, and yes he is trying to cheat on his wife...but these crimes seem disproportionately small when compared to the extreme retribution handed out by the Caller. This seems particularly true when it is revealed (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) that the previous victims of the Caller were a paedophile and a corporate inside-trader who sold his stocks just before the "little guys" lost all their money. Whilst Phone Booth is by no means a bad movie, it did feel like the set-up was a little rushed in the hurry to get to the tense hostage situation. Nevertheless, the film provides an engrossing way to spend a couple of hours, and I would certainly consider it well worth a rental, if not quite a must-purchase DVD.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer is very good and is generally free from major flaws.

    The video is presented 16x9 enhanced at 2.35:1 which is the original theatrical aspect ratio. Overall, the transfer is very sharp with no significant grain in evidence.

    The film takes place during the course of a single day, so there are really no dark scenes to speak of but shadow detail is a generally fine where needed. Black levels are deep and solid. Colours are generally a little cool, presumably to reflect the colder blues and greys of a New York City streetscape. The primary colours which crop up from neon signs and the garish clothing of some characters are well rendered however, with no evidence of colour bleeding. Skin tones are generally fine at all times.

    The transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. Edge enhancement was not bothersome but is apparent on inspection (for example at 13:39 on the buildings, 21:52 on the pedestrians or at 59:25 around Whitaker's black suit). On my set-up, aliasing was never really in evidence. Telecine wobble is absent.

    Film artefacts are rarely present and this is, perhaps unsurprisingly given the recent age of the picture, a very clean transfer.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are well timed and easy to read. They follow the dialogue fairly closely and provide suitable audio cues throughout. There are occasional dropped phrases, but overall you will get the gist.

    This disc is single sided and dual layered (RSDL) with the noticeable but brief layer change reasonably well located during a pause in Whitaker's dialogue at 34:04.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is robust and of good quality.

    The English audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 kbps. Most importantly, the dialogue is clear and natural sounding at all times, with no audio sync issues cropping up. There were no significant clicks, pops or dropouts noted.

    The original music was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams (Shrek, Spy Kids) and adds tremendously to the feeling of tension during the film. It has an understated, pulsing bass beat which really makes it feel as though the pressure is mounting and time is running out.

    The soundstage is mildly enveloping, with some fairly striking panning and localised effects. These start from the opening sequence of a communications satellite panning from the rear to front speakers. Dialogue is well placed in the various front speakers, with the location of voices changing to reflect the picture-in-picture telephone conversations perfectly. There is some nice spread across the front soundstage at all times.

    The surround speakers are quite well used to support the musical score and to build a surprising amount of depth into what is a dialogue intensive piece. During three-way telephone conversations, Stu and Pam talk from the left and right front speakers, whilst the Caller's voice emanates from the front centre and rear surrounds to give a slightly ethereal feel. The surrounds also provide limited support for ambient effects from the city streetscape, but often fall into near silence when the phone booth door is closed. Overall, I thought they could have been put to greater use. This is not a film to really demonstrate the power of your surround system, but it is reasonably effective in a more understated way.

    The subwoofer supports the bass from the music, and the occasional LFE effect but never really draws attention to itself. Given the nature of the film this is probably appropriate.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a couple of worthwhile extras on this disc.

Menu

    The menus are nicely themed, with the main menu a fairly clever picture of the inside of a phone booth, complete with passing shadows and Farrell reflected in the coin box. It is accompanied by a loop of the Caller's voice. It allows the selection of playing the movie, choosing one of twenty-eight chapter stops, language and subtitle options and access to the following special features:

Audio Commentary

    This commentary is provided by Joel Schumacher and is reasonably informative, particularly focusing on the constraints of filming in such a short period of time. Schumacher has a rather laid-back vocal style, speaking quite slowly and with some noticeable pauses. Joel seems to be quite a fan of Farrell, and can be a bit gushy at times. Not riveting, but a nice addition and worth a listen for fans of the film. There are subtitles available for the commentary.

The Making Of Phone Booth

    Running for a substantial 28:19 and presented fullscreen (1.33:1 and therefore not 16x9 enhanced), this featurette is much more than the usual EPK fluff. There is quite a lot of detail on the set design, lighting and cinematography, as well as the usual discussion with the star and director about how satisfying the film was to make. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps. Subtitles are available for the piece.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this film is presented on a single-layered dual sided DVD, with the OAR version on one side and a 1.33:1 transfer on the other. Research suggests that the space restriction means the video transfer on the Region 1 disc is less satisfactory than that found in Region 4, with grain and compression artefacts noticeable on occasion. In addition:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    The Region 4 version misses out on

    The Region 2 release appears to be identical to our own. Buy either the Region 2 or Region 4 version - whichever can be found for the better price.

Summary

    Phone Booth is an imaginative piece, well shot and with a strong performance from Colin Farrell. Whilst not perfect, it will certainly present a couple of hours of tense and exciting entertainment. This DVD is easily worth a rental, and for fans of Schumacher or Farrell, may be worthy of purchase.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio transfer is good.

    The extras are few, but worthwhile additions to the movie.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F
The DVD Bits - Allan H
AllZone4DVD - Kevin S
impulsegamer.com - Andrew Biz

Comments (Add)
unusual for fox - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
Phone Booth - Sam Clark
File sizes. Disagreemant with R1 to R4 comparison. - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
R4 vs. R1 - Anonymous REPLY POSTED