Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: David Fincher

Stars: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakum

With its plot of a resourceful woman defending her house against three vicious thugs, Panic Room shares some similarities with classic claustrophobic thrillers like Wait Until Dark and Lady In A Cage, etc.

Claustrophobic, recently divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster, in a role originally intended for Nicole Kidman) and her diabetic, tomboyish daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) move into their new home, a sprawling four storey brownstone tenement in an upmarket area of New York. The house’s main attraction though is the secret, secure, hidden stronghold known as a panic room. But on their first night in the house, the pair find themselves having to hide from three sadistic crooks (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakum). The three have broken in looking for the former owner’s rumoured fortune hidden inside a safe. Meg and daughter manage to gain the safety of the panic room, but then begins a tense battle of wits as the crooks try to force them out.

There are a number of holes in the plot here, but if, like me, you are willing to suspend disbelief for the duration, then Panic Room is quite a gripping suspense thriller that draws you in and holds you in its unrelenting grip for two hours. Almost Hitchcockian in flavour, Panic Room is probably the most mainstream thriller yet from director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, etc); yet it still bears his distinctive touch. Fincher carefully develops a palpable atmosphere of claustrophobic tension and unrelenting suspense, which is thankfully alleviated by some unexpected moments of humour. There is also a touch of unnecessary manipulation here as the team of writers go out of their way to make the two heroines appear even more vulnerable through their personal afflictions.

Fincher has a strong, idiosyncratic visual style, and this comes to the fore with some sensational camera work and tracking shots, lots of unexpected visual flourishes, including the opening credit sequence, and the usual darker heart underpinning the central narrative. However, some of the violence here is a little nasty and unnecessary.

Despite her absence from the screen for a few years, Foster is her usual strong self, and delivers a convincing performance of both resilience and vulnerability as the heroine of the piece. Stewart is particularly well cast as Sarah, and has an androgynous, tomboyish quality that reminds me of the young Foster twenty years ago, during her Disney phase. The three villains are pretty much one-dimensional, although Whitaker brings some depth and sympathetic qualities to his role as Burnum.



Speak Your Mind