I awaited this film with lots of high hopes. David Fincher is one of most talented directors out there in my opinion, since he has that rare creativity for suspense that just chills you every time you see one of his movies. Just look at Alien 3, Se7en, The Game, and Fight Club. Ok, he’s no Alfred Hitchcock but still, he manages to make it click right in thrills and suspense in every movie that he has done. His talent is also at full swing with his latest effort, Panic Room, which is based on true facts about people building “Panic Rooms” to protect themselves from thieves. I wondered how would he make such a flat idea like that to work on film? Well, he made it work… well, almost.The plot: Divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster looking great after all these years) and her bratty diabetic daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) are looking for a new place to live, and found just the place. A huge three story real-estate house, with more rooms than your average condo, an elevator, stairs, and of course, in the main bedroom, there lies a panic room, which is a tiny room that contains everything needed for survival, and includes an alternate phone, a close circuit surveillance system and a fire/breaking and entering alarm. So they move in, and start adapting themselves to their new home, but not for long because two nights later, a trio of thugs breaks into the house. The thugs, Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Junior (Jared Leto), and the “Joe Pecsi wannabe” Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) didn’t know that there would be people living in the house, and of course, they manage to scare Meg and Sarah right into the panic room, only to find out later that what they want is a shitload of money which is hidden in a safe located at… you know where. Now it all becomes a cat and mouse chase, with the cats (thugs) trying to trick the mice (Sarah and daughter) out of their hiding to get what they want, whatever the price.
"Drags At Times But Still Solid"
Like I said before, I never thought the idea would work, since were dealing here with a pretty flat idea. People locked in a Panic Room that nobody can enter, and these three thugs trying to get in every which way sounds more like a call to yawnville, but surprisingly it isn’t. At first the film has a rocky start due to certain difficulties in the character development and also since it takes longer than usual to bring the stuff up to date for the suspenseful part. But when it comes, the film recovers like 200% and were greeted in a series of awesome camera shots (courtesy of the legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall [American Beauty, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid]) which filter through every orifice in the house, from pipes to walls and pretty much whatever you can think of in a house. Fincher uses his suspense tactics to the fullest and works extremely well in the film, but within lays a problem.
Just as the suspense parts wine down, one of my fears in the film came true, well sort off. Since were talking about a pretty flat subject here, the script seems to run out of steam just as its starting to develop new ideas, since we see the three thugs just talking and talking about what they could do next to draw their prey out, plus other developments within those three characters (though the last one will wear thin within 45 minutes of the film). These segments tend to drag the film a lot, and it takes a long time for the movie to come up with the next ideas, but when it does the film manages to recover spectacularly. Thankfully there’s an upside to it, which somewhat makes up for the long splits, and it is that you never know what’s going to happen next. One side might be planning what to do next while the other must think quickly on how to counter arrest the move and plan its own strategy. It’s like a metaphoric chess game, where the players must think their strategies on how to lure their opponent out and when the time is right you strike. It’s also a cat and mouse sequence (if you want to call it that way) since the cat has to find a way or wait for an opportunity, and when the mouse is caught of guard, the cat attacks. The action scenes during the entire movie are thrilling, and I had to hold my breath several times in several of the occasions Meg had to lure herself out of the room. The psychological impact on the characters is portrayed to absolute realism, and had it’s peak when Meg’s ex-husband Stephen (Patrick Bauchau) appears for one of the most disturbing scenes in the movie where he gets beaten the shit out by Raoul. The ending was somewhat predictable, but it will still leave you on the edge of your seat. David Koepp’s screenplay is pretty much tight despite the gaps, pretty much what you’d expect from the man who adapted Jurassic Park.
The acting is pretty much perfect. Jodie Foster gives a believable performance as Meg; she pretty much steals the show. Kristen Stewart is also alright but Forest Whitaker??? Man, finally you get a decent role, and finally you remembered how to act for Fuck’s sake. Well, there goes some of your dirt from Battlefield Earth to the gutter, and lets hope you start choosing better roles like this one. Jared Leto is somewhat annoying as Junior, but still he manages to live up to standards, while Dwight Yoakam is ever soooooooo mysterious as the masked Raoul. Metaphorically speaking, Raoul is what you can call a Knight at the service of evil. He’s also great in this role. Once again, the credit goes to David Fincher, man, the guy doesn’t stop impressing me, though those flaws hamper his style in this movie, but in the suspense parts, man, not even Brian De Palma can top this guy.In the end, do I recommend this film? Yes, lots of fun, thrills and suspense, pretty much what a summer film is about. There’s nothing much else to say about Panic Room, other that it’s way cool, near perfect and it pretty much rocks. David Fincher still keeps proving that he’s the new master of suspense of the 00’s, lets hope he keeps on rocking like he has these past 10 years. Oh, in case you forgot, see it.
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originally posted: 06/23/02 11:09:06