Panic Room

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Ann Magnuson

Director: David Fincher

Meg Altman (Jodie Foster literally stepping into a part after Nicole Kidman hurt her leg and was unable to star) is hunting for the ideal apartment after a separation from her rich husband. Helping her in this quest are her young daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) and her friend Lydia (Ann Magnuson). They finally find an apartment that suits them and observant Meg notices that one of the rooms appears to be smaller than it should be. The estate agent congratulates her on her observation and shows her the hidden selling point of the house… a ‘panic room’. This is a steel lined room that the occupants of the house can lock themselves in if they feel threatened at anytime. It was built by a paranoid crippled millionaire which is all we get as explanation (not why a crippled millionaire would choose to live in a house with so many stairs when he could easily afford a bungalow somewhere else).

Meg and her daughter move in and on the first night they spend more time in the panic room than in any other part of the house when, to their horror, they have unwelcome visitors. As they watch the intruders from inside the panic room by the various TV monitors Meg tells them, from the safety of the room via an intercom, to take what they want and leave. It is then that one of the intruders holds up a sign for her to read ‘what we want is in there’ it says. The panic room has just become a bank and a prison in a matter of seconds.

It’s from there that the story progresses and I can say that although the plot has more flaws than a tower block. You can’t tell me that a millionaire would have a panic room built yet not put any smoke alarms throughout the rest of the house that would alert the police as the house is virtually demolished by explosions over the next hour? Still, its highly entertaining escapism – literally.

Jodie Foster is excellent as always as is Forest Whitaker. I originally thought that Sarah was a boy, so apologies to Kristen Stewart, who, after a typically angst ridden character introduction, warms to the role and is very good.

Of course, the main interest in this movie is the fact that the excellent David Fincher (depending on how you perceive his ALIEN 3 effort) directs it. Is this director the new Hitchcock? Well, yes and no. The first 45 minutes of the picture have some of the best shots you are likely to see in a mainstream film this year; for example the shot where the camera pans through the handle of a coffee cup, although obviously things are easier to do these days with the use of special effects. This doesn’t take anything away from Fincher. As his previous titles prove (FIGHT CLUB, THE GAME, SEVEN) he is the best director out there at the moment with a few modern day classics already under his belt. I wasn’t disappointed with the PANIC ROOM, but did expect more realism than is present in this tale.

Although it seems weak compared to his previous films (script being the major problem) it’s still the best thriller out there at the moment. It hasn’t blighted Fincher’s record, although it’s far more populist than his previous efforts, which is understandable if not just a little disappointing. It’s looks, not intelligence, that win the audience over this time, but hey, going to the cinema is supposed to be entertaining isn’t it?

All in all, PANIC ROOM is a nifty little thriller but a lesser Fincher effort, which still means it’s the best of it’s kind doing the rounds. Verdict: A safe bet.

4 out of 6 stars

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