Panic Room

Review Date:
Director: David Fincher
Writer: David Koepp
Producers: David Koepp, Gavin Polone
Jodie Foster as Meg Altman, Kristen Stewart as Sarah Altman, Jared Leto as Junior
During their first evening in a New York brownstone home, newly divorced mom and her doting daughter, trap themselves in a panic room after three burglars break into their residence. The robbers want to get inside the room but the two ladies aren’t hip to the deal. Thrills, suspense and mucho darkness ensues.
I don’t think I’ve ever started any of my reviews by professing my love for another man, but I think that in this case, it makes a lot of sense. Have you guys seen the movie SE7EN? Have you had the chance to watch THE GAME? Have you lived inside the genius that was FIGHT CLUB? Well, I have and seeing as all three of these parties were thrown by the same man named David Fincher (yes, he’s the man that I adore), I was strapped in tight when this film started to roll, and wouldn’t you know it…yet another keeper! From the clever opening credit sequence, to the nuances of shadows and sound, the gripping screenplay, the acting performances, Jared Leto’s fucked-up hairdo and everything up and around a room in which folks generally end up when they’re panicked, this film had me crunching down on my fingernails and enjoying every tension-filled minute. It’s a “small” David Fincher film compared to everything else that he’s done, but it works and it surprised the heck out of me since I really didn’t think that a movie set up entirely in one house (and even more so, in one room!) would be able to maintain my interest throughout. But it did so and did so in spades! And with Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW in mind, plenty of camera tricks in his back pocket and some very engaging characters and suspenseful flashes, this movie pulled me inside this place for a couple of hours, and I was glued to its characters all the way through.

The film also had several interesting personalities, top of which list goes to Jared Leto’s character, who kept things upbeat, despite the film’s obvious mucho dark undertones. He was dumb, funny, angry and ultimately, very appealing as one of the main bad guys. Forest Whitaker was also very good as the “bad guy with a heart” and Dwight Yoakam, well…you’re gonna have to see the movie to figure this nut out. A good combination of “bad guys”, I thought, with animosity among them sparking things up, to boot. I also liked the fact that we got enough background on them to appreciate where they were coming from, but not enough to know what their next moves would be (and yes, twists and turns do arise). Of course, drawing the audience in with a couple of sympathetic protagonists is another story, and here, once again, Jodie Foster and the young Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike Kristen Stewart (who I’m still convinced, is a boy!), offered up the goods. Foster, solid as always, engages us as a “regular” mom with issues and concerns like us all, while the palpable chemistry between the two, made you root for them that much more by the end. It also goes without saying that the directing and style of the film made it all that much more claustrophobic and believable, starting with the house itself, which never seemed inviting to anyone, the panic room, tight, green and sound-proof and the amazing score by Howard Shore, which eerily hovered over the entire piece.

But ultimately with any suspense thriller, it is the overriding feeling of dread and “what the fuck is gonna happen next?” that’s gonna drive you to squeeze your paws into the skin of the person sitting next to you, and I for one, was quite engaged by the scenario set up here. Every action by the “good guys” had a resounding reaction from the “bad guys” and I really liked how things ultimately played against one another like that (saying more would ruin stuff, so I’ll leave it at that). The ending was also pretty jolting, although I have to say that I was a little disappointed by the final shot in the movie, which I thought needed a little “more” (maybe I’ll feel differently when I see it again though). In the end, the film plays on all of our fears about being helpless in a situation with insurmountable odds, and for me…it was quite the ride. Thank you David Fincher, for creating such memorable and distinctive movies. You rock.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Panic Room



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