If you think you’re safe on the upper west side, think again, you’re not. Does anyone know or get that feeling after watching a movie that grabs your attention the moment the opening credits finish and doesn’t let go until the end credits roll? Panic Room gives me that feeling the moment the three antagonists get out of the car and begin sizing up the brownstone. I love a good thriller, the way it can seamlessly get you on edge of your seat without trying or take the breath out of your lungs with every twist. The first night Meg and Sarah Altman (Jodi Foster & Kristen Stewart) go to sleep in their new home, the thought of having to use their ‘panic room’ was the last thing on their mind. Little did they know, their happy inaugural night would turn out the way it did; filled with terror.
At first, once Junior (Jared Leto), Burnham (Forest Whitaker) and Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) enter the home, the job wasn’t what they expected. This job was supposed to be easy, in and out, not a peep, as quiet as a mouse. There was supposed to be no one home, the brownstone was to be empty of residents while they take the score of several million dollars. As the story moves forward, they get careless, things don’t go as planned as they start to lose control of the situation as Meg and Sarah try to fight back. Burnham and Raoul (spoiler alert, Junior gets shot and killed halfway through for wanting to give up and leave) also couldn’t account for Sarah being diabetic and seizing up while the two finally get into the room. We see Burnham’s empathy toward Sarah when saving her life while Raoul is still being a loose cannon. When his hand gets slammed closed by the door, I felt that, that one really hurt. It’s just something with the hands and feet that always get me.
The first thing that grabs me right away is the camera work and cinematography. The way the camera feels so small that it can fit through a keyhole or swing so effortlessly between floors is something that I always cherish and watch carefully when seeing a film. Its one of my favorite disciplines of filmmaking. The second thing that grabs me with this film and keeps me on the edge of my seat, gripping a pillow till my fingers turn blue is the phenomenal acting. This is the second film between director David Fincher and Jared Leto (the first being Fight Club, which if I had to rank is in my top 20 favorite films of all time; But, that is a topic for a different post). Junior is irrational and hot tempered, the perfect disaster for any big-time thief working with a crew. Burnham is the more levelheaded of the three and can think under pressure. Burnham also would prefer to not have any casualties. Raoul on the other hand, is incredibly unpredictable, making it difficult yet exciting to see what he could possibly do to any one of these characters. All three antagonists were portrayed wonderfully. The third thing I adored about this film is the game of cat and mouse that is played throughout, it is a game of chess for the safety of the mother and daughters’ lives, not just the money. They didn’t even know the money was there. The script is written well (David Koepp) that the tides don’t favor one side over the other. This could have been executed poorly, but David Fincher’s skills as a director prove otherwise.
A panic room is supposed to be the safest part of a house for such an occasion. In this case, the panic room becomes less as a haven as the plot moves forward. Cutting off all communication to the outside world, Meg and Sarah must get creative if they want to live to see the next day. The stripping of the telephone lines and using the flashlight as an s.o.s were genius decisions as they nearly worked. Although it isn’t made clear what line of work Meg is in, it surely was impressive that she knew how to strip the phone wires and create the phone line to call her ex-husband Stephen (Patrick Bauchau).
Like I said previously in this post, I absolutely love a great thriller, there is something about it when your pulse intensifies, and you can’t look away from the screen. If you look away, you feel like you’re not in the moment anymore and I feel that could ruin the suspense. The two parts that stand out to me the most are the propane tank plan backfiring on the antagonists and the final confrontation when Burnham saved Meg and Sarah from Raoul. I really thought he would kill both of them and I give Dwight Yoakam all the credit for it. I love David Fincher as a director, he’s one of my favorite filmmakers. His filmography speaks for itself; his directing style is like no other and I’ve seen majority of his films. Id absolutely recommend this film along with Fight Club, Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network; the first three being book adaptations.
Watching Jared Leto (leading man of Thirty Seconds to Mars) in this shows why he won the role of The Joker in Suicide Squad, I mean, excuse me, the Oscar winning Suicide Squad (Face Palm). He can play a convincing gangster, but this role was better suited for him because of the writing which brought out a better performance than the clown prince of crime.
Have you seen Panic Room? If so, drop a comment and let’s discuss, i’d love to hear your opinion.
Panic Room is directed by David Fincher, is rated R and has a 1 hour 53-minute runtime. Panic Room was released on March 18th, 2002 and can be purchased digitally on Itunes, Vudu or other retailers.
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