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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.68%
Worth A Look37.36%
Average: 23.08%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap: 6.59%

14 reviews, 98 user ratings

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Panic Room
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Empty exercise from David Fincher."
3 stars

Technology is the star of 'Panic Room,' in front of the camera and behind it.

The action centers on an impenetrable chamber in an expensive brownstone, a room designed to withstand the most sophisticated and persistent home invaders. There's one thing it can't hold off, though: David Fincher's camera. This director, who showed a flair for ominous, oppressive mood in Alien 3, Seven, and The Game, now treats the frame as his panting, frisky puppy. With the aid of computer animation, the camera rockets into keyholes, vents, even right through the handle of a coffee pot. I appreciate Fincher's desire to keep a claustrophobic movie visually interesting, but all it does is scream "This is a movie -- would you all please look at how much of a movie this is."

Jodie Foster moves into the aforementioned brownstone with her teenage daughter (Kristen Stewart, realistically deadpan and unimpressed by anything). They're shown the "panic room" before they move in; the idea of it gives Foster the creeps. (This leads to the movie's almost-lonely note of wit: Nursing buried-alive fears inside the panic room, Foster mutters "Ever read any Poe?" "No," says friend Ann Magnuson -- who really should be getting more work -- "but I loved her last album.") Naturally, Foster doesn't think to stock the panic room with supplies (say, food or insulin for her diabetic daughter) or hook up the room's independent phone line before moving in; naturally, a trio of thieves pick the duo's first night in the house to break into it, in search of a safe containing rumored millions; naturally, said safe is inside the panic room.

Give screenwriter David Koepp some credit: He manages to keep this impasse plot -- Foster and daughter, having taken refuge in the panic room, can't get out; the thieves can't get in -- going for a while solely on tension. At certain points it's as if Sam Neill and the two children from Jurassic Park (which Koepp adapted) hid up in that tree from raptors for two hours, except that these human raptors are considerably less toothsome. The ringleader is big, cuddly Forest Whitaker, who really shouldn't be asked to play an imposing villain straight (that he was cast -- brilliantly -- as the lethal, virtuosic samurai in Ghost Dog was part of that movie's joke); to be fair, though, he's the one with a conscience, the thief who just wants to get the money without excess bloodshed. His partners, the jittery Junior (Jared Leto, amusing when he's being bashed around) and the stone psycho Raoul (Dwight Yoakam, working his razorblade monotone to good effect), are less concerned with the welfare of their captives -- and, fortunately, much less smart than any person onscreen, and only slightly less smart than many pieces of furniture onscreen.

You can judge, with a sigh, why Foster was attracted to this material (other than a residual urge to work with David Fincher, in whose The Game she was slated to play the Sean Penn role before dropping out due to pregnancy). She gets to play fierce protector -- Clarice Starling as a mama, saving those lambs (or at least one) all over again. She doesn't do a great deal we haven't seen from her before, and it comes as absolutely no shock that she's self-sufficient and resourceful enough to hold the villains at bay while keeping her daughter safe. The movie is a mere exercise for Foster, her proof that she can do pared-down mainstream stuff as well as anyone. We knew that. She can do pretty much anything as well as anyone. What I'd like to see from her, every decade or so, is a character with some flaws -- maybe even, gasp, a villain. A woman as smart and formidable as Foster projects herself to be could play a female monster to reckon with, but where's the screenwriter ready to write such a role?

And where's David Fincher's head these days? Whooshing through keyholes and coffee pots, I guess. Fincher, it's clear by now, is a slickster in the Ridley Scott mold; few directors lay on the shadows and bass reverb as skillfully as he, but after five films, what does he have to say? From the evidence, possibly that any person with the ill luck to be trapped in a David Fincher design had better prepare to bloody himself or herself on the long way out of it.

'Panic Room' can be taken as a deeply sick and depressing joke on Fincher's own predicament -- his style is his panic room, and whether he ever breaks out depends on how richly he's rewarded for staying inside it.

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originally posted: 01/15/07 12:00:42
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User Comments

1/04/20 dupadoit pop cans 4 stars
3/13/17 morris campbell tense well directed 4 stars
1/04/09 Samantha Pruitt interesting idea, acting is good, they seem to have though of everything! 4 stars
8/13/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Okay,we get it.Jodie Foster is one bad mutha...shut your mouth.Hollywood, idea! 1 stars
2/12/08 Mike Hunt 110 minute gimmick movie. Time will not be kind to this fincher wreck. 1 stars
1/23/08 Double M A typical Hollywood thriller + Fincher's style. OK, but for Fincher, it's too disappointing 3 stars
1/15/07 Gloria Dornin I loved it, made me want to get a Panic room!! 4 stars
12/03/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
10/09/06 MP Bartley Jodie Foster, Woman of Steel! 4 stars
4/05/06 Dk Tense taught thriller that may be one of this centuries finest 5 stars
8/12/05 ES Dwight steals the show here, he's a really good actor= superb movie experience 5 stars
6/19/05 Nicole A disappoint after Se7en & Fight Club - I expected better 3 stars
4/04/05 indrid cold An odd idea for a movie. Not great but definitely "worth a look." 4 stars
2/26/05 Alice Colwell boring 3 stars
11/17/04 John Bale Smartly directed thriller with plenty of shock moments. 4 stars
9/19/04 R.W. Welch Neatly plotted cat & mouse game has some weak spots but entertains. 4 stars
8/16/04 Ana Marie It was kinda creepy... And Kristen acted well at that age. 5 stars
7/08/04 JME Not much to work with, but everyone involved pulls through - minus Koepp 4 stars
6/14/04 MyGreenBed Fincher has that great glossy-yet-arty look to his films, however this one has nothing but. 2 stars
2/04/04 Charles Tatum Unbelievable premise, arrogant direction, but great acting and pacing 4 stars
1/30/04 LIAM JACKSON i like the way raoul changes from a silent background observer to a truly menacing psycho. 5 stars
12/09/03 Samuel A very realistic film, strong performances!! 3 stars
10/18/03 Psiseeker let's keep this simple "110% TERRIBLE" If u like it, u r retarded 1 stars
8/17/03 Lorraine I love Jodie Foster but she chose the wrong movie here - rubbish 2 stars
8/13/03 It's just me I love this movie. It's really entertaining. Jodie Foster is an amazing actress. 5 stars
5/15/03 joshx42 Bad ending, good film. 4 stars
4/17/03 Nicole I expected much better 3 stars
4/15/03 reptilesni I was actually on the very edge of my seat. Some plot holes but who cares? 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Creatively bankrupt and lethargically rendered. Foster, though, is terrific. 1 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Horrifying Film With Twisted Screenplay and Eerie Direction. 5 stars
2/02/03 paul Great suspense, disappointing ending. RUN FOREST RUN!! 4 stars
1/30/03 Ken Very tense, well-directed thriller. Best opening credits ever. 4 stars
1/14/03 Mitsaso If it wasn't for the stupid ending... 4 stars
11/29/02 Monster W. Kung STEVE, Fight Club is Fincher's best easily. Whoever thinks different is a retard, like you. 2 stars
11/17/02 PsiSeeker My ending. Forest gets $, millionairess, brat, 2 tards get offed! :-) 2 stars
11/09/02 Phil M. Aficionado Awesone, until the cliche ending. Imagination please. Great camera work. 4 stars
10/23/02 palaboy101 A fairly big part of the story centered on a product placement for NOKIA 3 stars
10/02/02 John McNew A terrific, tense and fun, edge-of-your-seat thriller! Kudos to Foster and Kristen Stewart! 4 stars
9/23/02 .Choadushouse. Beautiful direction. And great performances. Definatly worth seeing. Fincher is the man. 4 stars
7/15/02 Roy Smith Blah - made by the guy that did Fight Club? Really? You sure? 3 stars
6/23/02 David A. Not as bad as Ocean's 11, but still a boring "science of being a crook" thing. Yawn. 3 stars
6/07/02 crush I loved it 5 stars
5/27/02 Nicole Big let down if you have seen other Fincher flicks 3 stars
5/24/02 Kristen very disappointing 3 stars
5/19/02 Chowie very good, but i felt as if they just eneded the movie coz they didnt know what to put next 4 stars
5/17/02 viking well made, but not Fincher's best 4 stars
5/15/02 Stud This movie was non-stop suspenseful!! 5 stars
5/13/02 Amy I expected more from a Jodie Foster movie. 3 stars
4/29/02 dave macdougall compared to every other Fincher movie.... this one sucks 2 stars
4/25/02 Nick2k hmm...don't expect a 'surprise ending'. we need more good movies with whitaker. 4 stars
4/22/02 Monster W. Kung Very disappointing, considering this guy directed Fight Club. 3 stars
4/16/02 Lauren anyone who rates this above "average" has to get out more! 3 stars
4/15/02 Lachlan bland and shallow- the best part is the titles at the satrt of the film. the script is diab 2 stars
4/13/02 Thor-Leo A fairly satisfying ride 4 stars
4/13/02 oldgoatmon not a jodie foster movie, why did she do it? Predictible and in retrospect little movement 2 stars
4/13/02 Punky Brewster If youve never seen a thriller before in your life, you might consider this to be "Awesome" 3 stars
4/12/02 CJ one of the few movies I'd like to see again 5 stars
4/12/02 Matthew Smith one of the year's best thrillers that will have you jumping out of your seat . 5 stars
4/11/02 margie yntema awesome 5 stars
4/10/02 Janine Lay not great, too hokey, diabetic daughter pushed the limits being stuck in the room like that 3 stars
4/09/02 spikeme502 Jodie Foster has more balls than most working actors 5 stars
4/08/02 bullit17 Fincher does it again. Hand-wringing, nailbting suspense and intensity 5 stars
4/08/02 Nicole Not a typical Fincher film and not really suspenseful if you have seen any of the previews. 3 stars
4/08/02 stoolie-bird generic fast food for the brain...not worth your time or money 3 stars
4/08/02 Koitus Compared to the rest of the CRAP that the industry is putting out these days -- 4-stars! 4 stars
4/07/02 FrayLo Sure, may be corny at times, but still a good suspenseful movie. 4 stars
4/06/02 Jessi Lacking in Plot 3 stars
4/05/02 Rapper S. Delight This one's for Forest Whitaker & Jodie Foster, while Leto & Yoakam are over-the-top fun 5 stars
4/05/02 Nicholas Schoonover Most worthless movie EVER! Bought the script from a 6th grader who wrote it in 20 mins. 1 stars
4/05/02 Obi Wan Hello Claris . . .I loved your new movie that Kidman turned down! Good 4 you!!! 5 stars
4/04/02 Dave MacDougall cookie cutter bad guys..... 2 stars
4/04/02 Spanky Typical non-human-acting characters. Why such a big gap between reality tv & fictional? 3 stars
4/04/02 dannyevans good movie, but the propane would have settled on the floor thus killing them in the fire 4 stars
4/03/02 orpy entertaining to a point, stupid ending 3 stars
4/03/02 Butterbean I saw plots like this on Lifetime TV. Have your date pay for you to see this one. 3 stars
4/02/02 lauren mccreight nothing you haven't seen before.... 3 stars
4/01/02 Dr Laura Is A Bitch (Doo dah, doo dah...) Engaging, gripping, slightly disturbing. Slight constant-crisis syndrome. Get the video. 4 stars
4/01/02 spaceworm Way better than the other stuff that opened today - a classic for its weekend. 4 stars
4/01/02 KMG This movie was outstanding...but where was Lecter? 5 stars
4/01/02 CoffeeVixen jesus christ, i came close to shitting my pants over the suspense! this movie rocks! 5 stars
4/01/02 Todd Beamer Best thriller in quite some times...and it actually delivers!! Bravo!! 5 stars
4/01/02 Ziggy Stardust Stylistically perfect. Just a fun flick to see. Not as scary as one would hope. 5 stars
4/01/02 skafunkrastapunk Amazing film making. Every shot was there for a reason. Be sure to watch the titles. cool 5 stars
3/31/02 Superdave Grandtastic 5 stars
3/31/02 Olivia Sands Whatever happened to Jodie Foster? 1 stars
3/31/02 malcolm great camera work, but there's never any doubt that Foster and the kid will be OK 3 stars
3/31/02 Chuck and Fran Great movie! Would have been better with more exposition and character development. 4 stars
3/31/02 Film Dude The best movie of the year so far - but it isn't hard to beat what else I saw this year. 5 stars
3/31/02 Film Guy Finally a GOOD movie. Panic Room Delivers 4 stars
3/31/02 ajayrockrock when people "count to 3" why don't they ever kill anyone? Great Movie!!! 5 stars
3/31/02 Gary I saw this with the movieman, and I find it just as good as he did, an exciting movie 4 stars
3/31/02 Michael ***** Tihs movie was the best movie of 2002 so far(Jodie Foster kicked ass) 5 stars
3/30/02 Zero182 Top-notch thriller. The screenplay/script is superb and the tension is gripping. 5 stars
3/30/02 frank a technical masterpiece. 4 stars
3/30/02 BO Despite all the femminazi psychobabble about 'dominant sex', this was a good movie. 4 stars
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  29-Mar-2002 (R)
  DVD: 30-Mar-2004



Directed by
  David Fincher

Written by
  David Koepp

  Jodie Foster
  Kristen Stewart
  Forest Whitaker
  Jared Leto
  Dwight Yoakum
  Ann Magnuson

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