Panic Room (2002)

This another review that I wrote Back in the Day, and altogether my feelings remain much the same, though I did knock the rating down half a point.  Still a great movie, but all the exposition in the world can’t always make a situation easily acceptable by suspension of disbelief.

Written by David Koepp and directed by the masterful David Fincher, Panic Room is a taut, suspense-filled action drama filled with gorgeous cinematography and note perfect performances. It also features one of the most haunting, tension-inducing scores that I can remember Howard Shore creating. It’s almost unbelievable that a movie with such a simple premise as “home invasion / burglary gone wrong” could turn out to be so memorable. Then again, I’m a big Fincher fan, having watched every one of his major films except Alien³, so I’m somewhat biased.

Recently seperated from her husband, Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is in the market for a new place to live with her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart). Her friend Lydia (Ann Magnuson) sets up an appointment with Evan Kurlander (Ian Buchanan) to view a huge brownstone building, formerly owned by an elderly rich fellow. Seems that when the old guy died, some of his fortune was never found, and there’s two men that know where it is. Junior (Jared Leto) and Burnham (Forest Whitaker) plan to slip into the building before the new owners move in, just to grab the hidden treasure that the former owner stored in his panic room (which is basically a safe house to hide in during any home invasions that may take place). Junior also brings along the mysterious Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) for the job, except that there’s one problem: the Altmans have already moved in.

There are few crimes that are as potentially traumatic to a person as home invasion can be. Your home is where your heart is, where you should feel safest, where the outside world can’t touch you. When someone shatters that vision you have, barging into your very life uninvited, well it certainly gives the impression that no one is safe anywhere. The panic room is pretty much the last line of defense the Altmans have in getting out of the increasingly-botched burglarly attempt by the three criminals. The criminals aren’t complete idiots either, though each of them has their own weakness that begs to be exploited. It’s hard to go into great detail about the characters for fear of spoiling a surprising plot development or twist. Despite the relative simplicity of the premise, this is a deep, well-crafted tale of a horrible event in these character’s lives.

I can admit some of Fincher’s faults, however big a fan I am of his work. One of his flaws can be his over-reliance on unusual camerawork, slipping through much of the household environment in order to get one long shot of the entire interior of the brownstone building. I’m not entirely sure how he does it, but I have to believe there’s some CGI work going on there. While it is great for an establishing shot, using it later on in the film as he does, seems slightly redundant, almost showing off his skills. It could conceivably affect how some people view the movie pacing-wise. Another fine Fincher film, one most assuredly guaranteed to keep you entertained for two hours.

4 / 5

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About SkoochXC
Long-time blogger, Canadian, cine-snark-aphile, Tweeter and generally lonely hearted guy.

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