Film Review: ‘Phone Booth’ Underlying Christian Message?

2003 saw the release of thriller ‘Phone Booth’ a film often heralded as Colin Farrell’s only good film. I was recommended to give it a watch and was reassured that it lasted just over an hour, so I only had 60 minutes of my life to lose, which could be a little or a lot depending on which way we look at it.

So was it worth it?

I want to say at this point that I can’t with good conscience commend this film as suitable for casual viewing. It’s main issue is the liberal usage of coarse language, which sadly in this day and age is far too common. Words lose their potency when they are used constantly, and sadly it’s the case with the profanities in our English language. All the more common is taking God’s name in vain which has almost become the norm in popular culture.

The movie opens with a shot of a satellite up in the sky looking down at earth, the first of a series of things which could be interpreted as religious symbols and references.

What’s the basic plot? Colin Farrell is more or less held hostage in a phone booth. Apparently a crazed serial killer has been listening in on calls made from this booth. The killer has a God-complex and feels it is his duty to make callers pay for their sins.

Trailer (safe for anyone to watch):

While listening in on Col’s conversations, the killer realises Farrell is only using the booth instead of his mobile because he doesn’t want his wife seeing the girl he’s been calling on his phone bill.

Nest thing, the phone rings. Colly picks up. The voice on the other line is this psycho who says that if he hangs up he’ll kill him. One can easily imagine how the rest of the film folds out.

Like I said, the film’s packed with religious symbols. So let’s start most obviously with this psycho guy, he has a high view looking down at Farrell in the booth. And also seems to possess a certain omniscience (knowing all about Far and his life) and seems determined to make him pay for his sins.

Is the director trying to say that this is how he views God? Instinctively the viewer feels the need to root for Farrell and despise the psycho. But is the psycho morally wrong? Is he even human? Does he exist? Then again he could simply be a serial sniper criminal mastermind killer with a creepy voice?

Obvious parallels could be made. If he is someone who can see all of our actions and inmost thoughts, someone who has the power to kill us with the touch of a button. Is this what it would take for us to come to terms with our own faults? Praise God for his mercy and far surpassing love.

Sin and repentance also come up as obvious themes in the film. I noticed a poster for a perfume called “penance,” and another window is plastered with the sign “Who do you think you are?” The phone book in the booth ‘happens’ to have been left on a page advertising abortions.

More obviously at one point Colin has his arms outstretched in a clear reference to the crucifix. And is soon ‘resurrected’ into the arms of his wife who still loves him in spite of the confessions he made to her while in the phone booth.

Be it intentional or not, there is definitely some sort of aim to encourage the viewer to come to terms with our faults and sins. I guess by all the religious imagery the director is suggesting that God is our only route to such freedoms.

The film works well because Mr. Farrell is the ‘everyman’, we associate with him every step of the way because most of us can see ourselves in his very position. He isn’t evil through and through, but he has some obvious problems, like we all do. He isn’t sleeping with someone other than his wife, but he is calling her on a daily basis and fantasising about her. We all have issues in our lives which need to be dealt with, whether we feel guilty about them or not.

While the film raises some brilliant questions, it doesn’t reach any conclusions that we couldn’t get from the Bible, what the film may have been and may still be good for, is for people who have never considered their desperate need to come to terms with their own faults and failings. We all have them, but can we afford to go on allowing them to stay imprinted on our souls?

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