March 2002

Reviewed by Wilson Morales


Distributor:Sony Pictures
Director:David Fincher
Screenwriter:David Koepp
Cinematography:Conrad Hall, Darius Khondji
Music:Howard Shore
Cast:Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakim, Jared Leto, and Kristen Stewart

At a time when security plays a factor in our lives as we go inside and outside of our homes, here comes a film where the need for security inside is greatly stressed. David Fincher, who’s no stranger to making films in dark settings, has cleverly constructed a film that avoids clichés we’ve seen before. Jodie Foster, who seldom appears in films, comes back to the big screen convincingly playing a woman who muscles the strength to fight back her intruders and protect her sick daughter. “Panic Room” is a thriller that deserves to be mentioned in the same category as a “Rear Window”.

The story takes places in New York where Meg Altman and her daughter Sarah (newcomer Kristen Stewart) are looking at a new brownstone. The most appealing aspect of the brownstone is a panic room that was created by the previous owner who feared being attacked for his money. The room is hard to penetrate and comes with a phone not connected to the main line. Meg is just trying to get used to the fact the she’s a recent divorcee whose husband left her for another woman. Needless to say, Meg was rewarded with a huge settlement. Seeming frigid at times and very overprotective of her daughter, Meg is trying to live a new life. On the first night of sleeping in the house, three intruders (Whitaker, Leto, and Yoakim) enter through the back not realizing that there are people upstairs. Once Meg discovers the three, she wakes Sarah and goes in the panic room for safety, not knowing that what the intruders seek is inside the room.

The compelling aspect about this film is the acting and the cinematography. Never the “fraidy cat” as one would assume she would be, Foster brings credibility to the character. Yoakim is convincing as a menace whose involvement is only to get paid. Whitaker brings depth as a man who has limits to the things he will do to succeed, even though he has the most knowledge of the layout than the other two. Another “character” that helps the film is the brownstone itself. It’s hard making a film with one setting without making it look like a play, but the cinematography is gorgeous. From the kitchen to the bedroom to the panic room, each scene plays a role of importance. The opening sequence of Manhattan buildings as the credits run by is a sight to see. Not the greatest thriller ever, but thoroughly engaging. Panic Room is a reminder to those who live in big apartments, houses, or even brownstones; small is good.


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