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Panic Room (SE)
DVD disk
10.07.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Panic Room (SE) order
David Fincher

Jodie Foster
Jared Leto
Forest Whitaker


star Printer-Friendly version
Poor Jodie Foster... Right after splitting from her husband, her character Meg and daughter Sarah buy a new house in Manhattan equipped with a panic room in which they can barricade themselves if need ever be. To make matters worse, their first night in the new pad includes a visit from three burglars after some loot left behind by the previous occupant. Will the panic room save them or become the very instrument of their demise?
David Fincherís latest film offers the same darkness and grit heís gotten us used to in hits such as SE7EN and FIGHT CLUB, but this time around, it does so in a much more confined and claustrophobia-inducing setting. Taking place in a tall and narrow Manhattan townhouse, the film gives up almost nothing in terms of lighting and space and eventually sets the table for a thriller that would have made Hitchcock proud, one in which the balance of power constantly shifts between the crooks and their victims. The confrontation eventually becomes a who-will-blink-first affair that will keep you on the edge of your seat and wishing you hadnít worked out so hard on the Thighmaster. Foster lives up to her own talent as the troubled single mom whoís stuck in a virtual safe with her ambiguously asexual child.

Both women keep the tension going well through all the obstacles thrown at them by the trio of very inexperienced burglars trying to make out with a nice sum of money left behind by the homeís previous owner. Jared Leto (who eventually built a panic room for himself in his own house in case his legions of crazed fans one day overrun the place?), Yoakam, the unhappy recipient of Letoís best one-liner and Whitaker, make up the trio of bumbling robbers. They walk the edge between being complete fools or extremely dangerous psychopaths, but remain different enough to stay interesting. Leto, as the bratty mastermind wannabe, Yoakam as the nutcase whoís watched a few too many Rambo films and Whitaker, as the mandatory crook with a cause and a heart of gold. In a nutshell, PANIC ROOM is quick, entertaining, original and sure to please anyone who likes a movie to go medieval on their nerves.
Iím not sure there was really a need for a second PANIC ROOM DVD, but I guess the studios smelled some green, so here we are, with a three-disc set full of extras. Letís get to it.


Aside from the movie, Disc One contains three full-length commentary tracks. The first is a cast commentary with Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam. All three offer up some fairly standard info (Yoakam stands out as the coolest!) but theyíre also recorded separately and edited into one track with a very creepy host who sounds like Avery Brooks introducing them. Itís probably better than having to sit through some boring parts from each of them, but truth be told, I hardly imagine these three people melding together anyway so it didnít really matter.

The second track is the director commentary with David Fincher. He goes through the motions of a director on a commentary track, telling us about a few particular shots, a few problems they had and so on and so forth. Thereís nothing particularly groundbreaking here although he sure does make some cool movies and die-hard Fincher fans will no doubt be interested in how he goes about on a movie set.

The last one is the writer commentary with David Koepp and his special guest William Goldman. Iím not sure what Goldmanís link is here, heís the Academy Award winning writer of THE PRINCESS BRIDE and other films, but both men do a decent job, Koepp of telling the origin of the story and how it developed and Goldman of sounding drunk.




The Testing Phase (16 mins.): Quite technical in nature, this brief segment relates the different tests that were performed before the shoot began as far as lighting and cinematography. The film does have a particularly dark texture to it, so it was important to let the lights and camera work without interfering with the intended look.

Safe-Cracking School (13 mins.): A safe-cracking expert (or as these people are called nowadays, a safe-cracking prevention expert) shows some crewmembers how to go about busting into the type of safe that holds the much desired loot. At first, I thought it might have been about a man trying to sleep with Jodie Foster.


Creating the previs (10 mins.): This is basically ten minutes of David Fincher walking through his CG previs film and mapping out the shots he wants to film. Like most of the features in this section, it looks hastily assembled with no intro or titles. It just starts and goes ahead. For someone whoís unfamiliar with this type of feature (and sometimes I wish I was) it seems like it would be pretty hard to follow.

Previs demo with commentary (10 mins.): Again, I didnít know who was doing the commentary (it was some girl who sounded pretty cute though) but again, itís a montage of scenes from the CG previs rough.

Habitrail film (4 mins.): Whoís Habitrail and whatís their business here and most importantly, why is there a minute long, soundless sequence of tiny CG characters chasing each other around a CG house?

Multi-angle featurette (30 mins.): this is a pretty cool mix ní match featurette in which you can access a couple of scenes and shift the POV from angles to storyboards to previs etc. You can also change the audio tracks around.


Shooting Panic Room (50 mins.): The main "making of" feature on this DVD, itís extremely complete and touches on any aspect you could think of. Note that it doesnít really stray too far away from the usual either, but it does feature some text scrolling down the bottom of the screen which contains some information and which at times is even more interesting that whatís happening on screen.

Make up efforts (9 mins.): The main focus in this short clip is the making of Dwight Yoakamís prosthetic hand, the one that has a nasty encounter with the solid steel door of the panic room. The two guys being interviewed are funny.



Sequence Breakdown (30 mins.): Here you can check out four different scenes in comparison with the storyboards, other cameras, dailies and more. Itís a bit repetitive, but okay nonetheless.


Visual effects (90 mins.): Twenty-one (yes, twenty-one) different short visual effect aspects of the movie. Beginning with the extremely cool opening credits and going all the way through to the final scene, the visual effect scenes are depicted in very good detail and interesting fashion. Itís quite surprising since you wouldnít think while watching the movie that so many effects had to be used, but I guess thatís the beauty of well-made CG: that you donít even see it.

Scoring (20 mins.): An overlong feature about the orchestral sets used to create the mood music in a couple of particular scenes. Pretty good to know, but I doubt we needed to spend so much time on it.

Sound design (15 mins.): This is dedicated to the different little environment and action sounds that were manipulated to create the movie noises. You can just read my comment above.

Digital Intermediate (11 mins.): At this point, weíve reached the bottom of the barrel in terms of my interest. I really donít need to know about how the film is transfefred to digital format in order to perform slight color corrections on each frame.... But I had to see it, so I had to share it.

Super-35 Technical Explanation (Text): Super-35 is a film format. Super-35 Technical Explanation is a ten thousand page explanation of it.
This special edition was pretty good and very complete, but Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: I donít like endorsing double-dip DVDs. PANIC ROOM is certainly an entertaining movie and if you donít already own the Superbit, then itís definitely worth acquiring. If youíve already shelled out the bucks before, I donít see the point. Thereís a bunch of extras on this edition that you wonít get with the other, but I challenge anyone who buys this to go through the whole thing and not go crazy. If you donít have the film itself on DVD, go for it, but itís not worth picking up just for the extras.
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