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"Phone booth"



"Phone booth" ... despite the thin narrative, it is a well crafted film.

IT'S NEW York city. With all its hustle and bustle. In an age of mobiles and speed-dialing remains one last bastion of a kind. The phone booth. Old fashioned but convenient. As life moves on at its frantic pace, the phone rings. And you just cannot ignore a ringing phone. You have to pick it up.

And when you do you realise that this is going to be a long haul.

Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is your true blue, pushy PRO for whom working at every angle to get publicity for psuedo clients is everything. And as he strides through the streets of Manhattan, his mobiles are constantly busy — an awe struck aide follows a step behind taking in all the glib talk.

Never the one to take a no he is both vulture and prey. Morality is a forgotten thing and sexual fidelity is passé. Married, but wanting to start something with an aspiring actress, Pamela (Katie Holmes), he shamelessly lies.

A situation waiting to explode. Which it does when the phone from where he makes a call to her everyday, fearing his wife (Radha Mitchell) would check his mobile bills, rings. The deceptively soft voice (Kiefer Sutherland) on the other end blithely announces that Stu's life is about to change. He is the lucky one who gets to be killed if he hangs up. A high-powered rifle is pointed at him from some unseen window and if he tries to escape he will be shot.

Why Stu? And he asks as much. And the voice grimly informs him, ``if you have to ask, you are not ready to know yet.'' And that sets the tone for this thriller, which manages to keep viewers in their seats without any great effects or action.

Once 20th Century Fox's "Phone booth" gets going, there is no letting up right till the end when the credits roll. The film's rapid pace and its almost Hichcockian adherence to imparting ominous tones to everyday objects is aided greatly by the split screens. They distract you from whatever flaws there may be and allow you to go through the 75-odd minutes without realising that this film has only one setting and just one person hanging on to a phone.

A thin narrative, uncomplicated by too many incidents, has been crafted rather well — with the camera angles and movements. There is complete reliance on the protagonist's expressions and body language — from anger to repentance — to convey the sense of terror. And Farrell does a good job. The story is neither outstanding nor plausible. But when everything else is done with élan, you allow this to pass.

The unraveling is slow, but relentless. And as Stu's panic builds up, so does the world around the booth. The police arrive — in droves — led by Forest Whitaker (a subdued performance), who tries to diffuse the situation as best as he can. Stu's wife is there too along with his girlfriend, the media and hordes of onlookers.

All gripped by the unfolding fear and truth.

Kiefer Sutherland conveys with his voice the growing anger and menace effectively enough — forgettable once the film is over, but gripping while it is running.

Director Schumacher gets this modern tale of morality woven into a thriller with vigour using the script by Larry Cohen in a tight, simple narration. The dialogue is sometimes trite, but relevant to the situation.

Just as the four letter words are, bringing home the realisation that they have well and truly become part of daily usage.

CHITRA MAHESH

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