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File:Phoneboothposter 9201.jpg

Phone Booth is a 2002 suspense film directed by Joel Schumacher. It is about a publicist, Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) who finds himself held hostage in a phone booth in full view of the New York City public by a sniper (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) who has uncovered him plotting an affair with Pamela McFadden (Katie Holmes), and wants him to change his ways. To prove his seriousness, the voice on the other end snipes a random bystander.

As Stu plays a very dangerous, hair trigger, game with the voice, the police show up and are perplexed by the panicked man who refuses to exit the phone booth. Thus begins a three way battle of wits as Police Captain Ed Ramsey (Forest Whitaker) tries to decipher Stu's situation.

One of the selling points of the movie during previews was that it is set in Real Time, often using Split Screen techniques to show things going on at the same time. This came on the heels of 24's initial success on TV (coincidentally, both works feature Kiefer Sutherland in a major role).


Tropes seen in this film:

  • Affably Evil: The Caller's demeanor is pleasant, but is clearly malevolent, with deity-level feelings of grandiosity. There are also moments where he's having way too much fun tormenting Stu to claim any sort of moral high ground. ("Kelly or Pam? Bam! Bam!")
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Stu can transition from cocksure confidence to sympathetic weeping in a matter of seconds.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Planned adultery being lumped in with child pornography and corrupt business deals. Then again, Stu is given a lot more chances for Redemption than the other two seemed to get.
  • Asshole Victim: The Caller's previous victims.
  • Bald of Awesome: Sgt. Cole
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: Captain Ed Raimey, who while not technically bald, is close enough to count.
  • Begone Bribe: Stu dismisses others by offering them money or valuable items on more than one occasion. The Caller reminds him of this later and comments on how it shows Stu's disrespect towards other people.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call escorts hookers if You want to avoid having Your ear talked off.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Stu's fine, but the Caller pins the whole thing on the pizza guy and gets away.
  • Book Ends: The communication relay satellite sequence, reversed before the credits roll.
  • Break the Haughty: The whole point of the film.
  • California Doubling: Shot on the only street in Los Angeles which could pass for Manhattan. Though the effect is blown in long shots, when you can see the skyscrapers ending after a few blocks. Also, given the address where the phone booth supposedly is, he should be basically across the street from Studio 54.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The pizza delivery guy, but this turns out to be a subversion
  • Cold Sniper: The Caller is clinically cold whilst holding Stu hostage via a sniper rifle
  • Completely Missing the Point: Michael Bay was in talks to direct. Supposedly, the first thing he asked when meeting with the writers was "How do we get him out of the booth?" In fairness, he may simply have been asking how to end the film, but there's no way to be sure.
    • Why didn't he just read the last few pages of the script?
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: The Sniper knows every trick in the hostage taking book.
  • Deadly Delivery: Inverted; the villain lures a pizza delivery man to his hiding place and kills him to fake his own suicide.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Caller
  • Development Hell: The film's road from inception to release took nearly forty years (including a two and a half year period between production and release). The story idea had been around for long, that Alfred Hitchcock(!) was initially attached to direct the film in the late 60's.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The penalty for cheating on your wife is death. And being a prick.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Discussed/exploited/invoked by the Caller:

 The Sniper: You know like in the movies just as the good guy is about to kill the bad guy, he cocks his gun. Now why didn't he have it cocked? Because that sound is scary.

    • He actually cocks it (unnecessarily) many times over the movie, and it scares Stu each time.
      • The rifle was unloaded most of the time he cocked it, though, as rounds were not discharged between cocks, simply to scare Stu with the sound of a rifle cocking.
  • Enforced Method Acting: None of the extras were given instructions on what was happening, just that they should react accordingly. All of their reactions to shots being fired (and Stu's confession) are genuine.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Kiefer Sutherland's voice seems to get more gravelly as the film goes on.
  • Freudian Excuse: Played with and subverted. Whatever the Caller's motives for his actions, it had nothing to do with his childhood upbringing, which he says was quite happy.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Just about everything the Caller says. It's what makes up most of the movie.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Keifer Sutherland's voice is very recognizable. It becomes Hey, It's That Guy! at the very end.
  • I Can See You
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Stu uses this as his excuse as to why he's cheating on his wife.
  • Ironic Echo: "Isn't it funny? You hear a phone ring and it could be anybody. But ringing phone has to be answered, doesn't it?"
  • Insistent Terminology: the hoo- ladies will have you know they're escorts.
  • Instant Emergency Response: Subverted and cruelly lampshaded. Stu points out that if the sniper shoots him, everyone will panic. The sniper does and no one even notices.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: The Caller tells Stu about one his previous victims, a child pornographer who claimed he was just an artist.
  • Jerkass: Stu
  • Karma Houdini: The Caller
  • Karmic Death: The Caller considers his actions this.
  • Knight Templar: The Caller.
  • Laser Sight: Like the gun cock, used for psychological reasons more than practical reasons.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: "Thousands die everyday, but you put one dead body in the middle of a busy street and it makes people crazy."
  • Murder Arson and Jaywalking: The Caller mentions two targets before Stu. The first was a child pornographer. The second was a Corrupt Corporate Executive who bankrupted people in his own get rich quick scheme. Stu's crime? Being generally dishonest (but he's a publicist!), a Jerkass, and flirting with a girl who's not his wife. (See Disproportionate Retribution above)
  • No Hero to His Valet: Inverted, Stu is a massive jerk to his assistant Adam, but Adam still looks up to him.
  • The Other Marty: Kiefer Sutherland's scenes were initially shot with Ron Eldard. Eldard's scenes were replaced after he didn't test well with the audience and studio.
  • Paedo Hunt: Before Stu, one of the Caller's targets was a child pornographer.
  • Phone Booth: This film might be the most triumphant example of it yet.
  • Real Time: It cheats a few times but tries to hold to the idea.
  • Redemption Earns Life: See below.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Stu finally admits his wrongdoings to his wife and all of the passers-by, and is shortly afterwards shot. Then it is revealed that it was a rubber bullet, and he's perfectly fine.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Played with and subverted. The Caller pretends to be suffering from PTSD from his experiences as a rifleman in The Vietnam War. When Stu tries to use this to calm him down, he just laughs and admits he made the whole thing up.
  • Split Screen
  • Suicide by Cop: The cops suspect Stu of attempting this, and actively seek to defy it. Of course they're Wrong Genre Savvy as Stu doesn't want to commit suicide, he's being held hostage.
  • Take Me Instead!
  • Technology Marches On: Acknowledged In-Universe in regards to the booth. The film got stuck in Development Hell back in the 60's when phone booths were far more common. They were pretty dated by the time it came out. The film admits its the last one in New York, and the reason Stu uses it is because he's a married man cheating on his wife using it to call his mistress, and his wife checks his cell phone records.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Averted. They went out of their way NOT to acknowledge that Kiefer Sutherland is the Caller, but when the movie came out to video and DVD, they slapped the actor's face and name on the cover front and center. This was probably due to his role on 24 both times.
    • Still, having the obvious villain's face on the cover in a film where the major fake-out is that the killer is staged is kind of a giveaway.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The caller fakes one for a few minutes when Stu won't speak to him.

 "I'm kidding. I had a very happy childhood."

    • He has another one near the end that might not have been an act.
      • While it might not have been entirely an act in reaction to Stu's sudden "I got you!" attitude, he had to have been referring to the pizza guy when he has to "take someone down with [me]", and not Kelly like he was threatening to Stu. He keeps everyone in the dark about holding the pizza guy hostage in secret the entire time to distract the police from him.
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