Jodie Foster definitely has the protective mother thing down. In Flightplan, she has her child taken from her, defying all logic, while on a transatlantic flight. In Panic Room, she has the child with her, and bad guys literally outside her door. In both cases, she has guts and brains on her side and not much else. They’re both exceptional thrillers.
Each film asks parents to put themselves in her place: how much would you risk to protect your child from evil? In both cases the answer is the same: everything. Rooting value is a wash between these films. We are on Jodie’s side every step of the way.
Both films use the same plot twist but in different ways. In Flightplan, Foster plays Kyle Pratt, a jet propulsion engineer who has been employed in Germany working on the very jet that she’s now flying. In other words, she knows this plane inside and out. In Panic Room, it’s Forest Whitaker playing Burnham — the bad guy — who has spent a decade of his life designing rooms like this "to keep out people like us." In the former, this inside knowledge gives Foster’s character her only hope and in the latter, this inside knowledge is what makes her plight all the more desperate.
What’s good about both these films is that the plots, while not exactly airtight, are definitely not dumb, either. There is a clear internal logic in both of them that is coherent enough to keep you grabbed during the movie even if, on the way home, you have a few questions you’re not sure you like or understand the answers to.
Because of their thematic similarities, I couldn’t help think that Jodie Foster was cast in Flightplan specifically because she played that character so well in Panic Room. I also thought how sad it is that Hollywood didn’t let Foster carry a different, wholly original film on her shoulders the next time out — after all she’s one of the best actresses working today. But that’s Hollywood. These films cost so much to make that the studios generally go for any tested advantage.
Panic Room. Because even though the competition here is excellent, this film was original (or at least more original) when we first saw it and, thus, surprised our expectations even more.
Movies-Squared (Two Reviews for the Price of One!) reviews one film out in the theaters today by comparing it to a related film out on DVD — and declares a winner. The connection might be subject matter, director, actor, whatever…
Bryce Zabel is a working screenwriter/producer whose current credits include The Poseidon Adventure and Blackbeard. He was chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences from 2001-2003. He maintains two other blogs: his flagship News! — Views! — & Schmooze! and Instant History.