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Panic Room (A PopEntertainment com Movie Review)

Updated: May 15, 2023


Starring Jodie Foster, Forest Whittaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Kristen Stewart, Ann Magnuson, Ian Buchanan, Andrew Kevin Walker and Patrick Bauchau.

Screenplay by David Koepp.

Directed by David Fincher.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 112 minutes. Rated R.

In a college fiction class, my professor said that the most difficult stories to write are ones that take place entirely in one space with limited characters. You can’t hide flaws in the characters by bounding off in other directions, the interactions must be realistic or the audience will know. Except for a few brief scenes at the beginning and end of the film, Panic Room takes this challenge, setting all the action in the four stories of a lovely Manhattan brownstone.

Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, a recent divorcée who decides to make her ex pay for his affair with a model by purchasing the most expensive city house she can find. It is four stories of prime real estate owned by a recently deceased millionaire. Amongst the cool attributes of the house is that it is equipped with a panic room, a fully armored shelter where a person can be cut off from the rest of the house in case of danger.

In a case of bad timing, Meg and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) move into the house on the same night that the millionaire’s grandson, Junior (Jared Leto), decides to break into the house to find his grandfather’s hidden fortune. He brings with him Burnham (Forest Whittaker), a broke and desperate but basically good security man and Raoul, a quiet, glowering and quite possibly crazy ex-con. The phones haven’t been turned on yet and a monsoon rages outside, so the five characters play an intricate game of cat and mouse while completely cut off from the outside world. The criminals try everything they can to get Meg and Sarah out of the panic room, which is where the fortune is hidden. Meg has to get out to get her daughter’s medicine or she may die inside.

Panic Room has been directed stylishly by David Fincher (Seven, The Game, Fight Club)… sometimes a little too stylishly, some shots like a dolly cam across the bottom floor and a slow motion rain of money seem to be there only to show-off that Fincher and his crew can do them. It’s a bit of a shame that the smart and involving set-up denigrates into a predictable ending in which Foster has to kick her some bad-guy butt. But overall, Panic Room is a smart and savvy thriller. (3/02)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved. Posted: March 29, 2002.

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