If there’s anything you must not do, DO NOT PANIC. Unless it’s because of how incredible this film is. Then that’s ok.
The name David Fincher may sound familiar to some. I know we shouldn’t be talking about it, but this is the guy that directed Fight Club (1999)! The same guy also directed Se7en (1995) and not to mention Gone Girl (2014) (also an outstanding film). How envious are you of this guy’s talent? And I’ve not even started my fangasm of Panic Room (2002).
Jodie Foster is totally awesome, as always, and this is the film where we get to see a wickul baby-faced K-stew, and personally, one of her better performances:
Set in New York, newly divorced Meg Altman (Foster), moves into her new home with her daughter Sarah (Stewart). The most prominent feature of the house is its ‘Panic Room’, where any victims can take refuge in a sealed and stocked space on the top floor.
On their first night, three burglars break in – personally I would have preferred a house-warming party. Anyway, after the hoo-ha ensues, guess what they’ve come for? Oh yeah, that huge mothafuckin fortune stashed in the floor of the panic room itself. Both Meg and Sarah and the burglars manipulate, attack and chase one another through the winding labyrinth of the town house. May I iterate just how huge the house is. For two people, it’s just bloody excessive. Could easily fit residents of London Zoo in there, and I’m not actually joking.
There seems to be no conclusion that the viewer can anticipate, which keeps us right on our toes. If you were unfortunate enough to be watching this with me, by this time, I will have probably have crushed your thigh bone into smithereens and burst your eardrums. And this isn’t even technically a horror movie.
The characters are SO well-cast! I cannot stress this enough. It’s one of the most underrated things which goes into a movie. They absolutely hit the nail on the head for each character, and Foster fulfils a sterling job as a socially displaced but wicked/badass mother. Kristen Stewart plays what could be seen as one of her most resounding roles as an intelligent child, placed in an incredibly scarring circumstance. You’ve got to give her credit for such an intense role at that age. I probs would have invited the burglars in for a tea party and been killed off in the first five minutes.
Underdog Jared Leto, albeit a more brief appearance, is outstanding as a vicious, greed-driven attacker. And, can we take a moment to appreciate the heartbreaking performance of Forest Whitaker.
Thank you. Whitaker effortlessly plays the role of a morally troubled accomplice, who by the end we undoubtedly sympathise with. You just know he isn’t the bad guy, you just know. He’s been sucked into the wrong crowd and just wants to put food on the table for his wife and kids. But his fate is so bloody troubling I had a lump stuck in my throat – I will let you discover what happens for yourself.
Dwight Yoakam as the party leader plays an electrically eerie thief, making the audience shudder at each moment he both is and isn’t on screen. Personally, I think he a massive dong and thoroughly depise him. To give the guy credit, this only means he’s doing a great job at acting.
Especially in a thriller, setting is key. With the rainy New York streets overlapping with the domestic household location, the events which unfold shatters our illusion of the comfort of home. The film takes place mostly in the house, but with clever filming techniques and use of space, windows and shadows particularly makes it effective.
Fincher is known to employ a fluid tracking camera, which works as a ‘fly on the wall’. This gives the viewer full access to what the characters cannot see, and exposes us to what both the victims and attackers are plotting simultaneously. And he’s just awesome anyway, of course. Fincher is also known to have a subdued colour scheme in his films. This is very subtly yet efficiently applied in Panic Room, both in props and costume. The darker hues project a sense of ambiguity – as the viewer have no indication of mood, or how to react and the neutrality contributes further to the paramount build-up. If this is a book, I’m going to have to get on this right away because this kind of suspense on paper would just be absolutely palpable.
Receiving 6.8/10 on IMDB, the success of Panic Room is definitely underrated. Whoever reviewed it was definitely drunk or scrolling through Instagram at the same time. In that case, you an idiot. With faultless acting, unrivalled tension-building and meticulous directing, Panic Room undoubtedly raises the stakes for psychological thrillers. The initial confrontation is a little delayed, and perhaps becomes a little tedious, yet here is where the only major fault lies. Overall, the simple, yet distinctive, idea is almost perfected by all accounts – Fincher’s directing, the talented acting and casting, seamlessly choreographed fight-scenes and of course, the originality of the plot itself.
NOW GO AND WATCH IT.