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Panic Room 3 disc DVD set review

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Panic Room is a great, tension filled, somewhat action oriented movie from David Fincher, probably most famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) for Alien 3. Sony has just released a 3-disc feature packed set to make up for the intial featureless Superbit disc. While the debate could be brought up as to whether or not this movie is actually worthy enough for a set like this, there’s no denying this is one of the most comprehensive looks at the art of filmaking ever put together.

Panic Room follows Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her diabetic daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) as they settle into a new house. A specific room of this new residence is obviously the focal point of the film. When their house is invaded by 3 thugs (led by Forest Whittaker), the mother and daughter combo rush off into the panic room and lock themselves inside. Problem here is that the entire reason the criminals broke into the house lies within the panic room. What follows is a great story of two groupos of people trying to outwit each other and make it out with their lives.

What makes Panic Room so unique is it’s intense camera work and undeniable style. Very little light ever makes it’s way into the film and the camera moves which are done traditionally as well as CG. Jodie Foster puts on a great performace, looking truly terrified throughout the entire running time. It’s not perfect as it can be a bit slow, but there’s no way the tension build up can be ignored.

The first disc of this set features the movie (duh) and 3 seperate commentary tracks. The video on this disc is actually better than Sony’s overhyped “Superbit” release. Grain is kept to an absolute minimum and the black levels (completely neccesary to the film) couldn’t be much stronger. This really makes their entire Superbit line looks like a joke. The only thing missing is the DTS track, but the 5.1 mix included here is only marginally weaker. Most people won’t even notice a difference.

Disc 2 is laid out wonderfully. Each of the 3 discs feature outstanding menus with a CG replica of the house and a camera that takes you room-to-room depending on what you’ve selected. Pre-production takes you through the testing of the lighting, prep, storyboards, multi-angle storyboard versus final segments (with commentary), and more stuff you’d never even think you’d need to do to make a movie. Prduction includes a roughly hour long documentary on the actual shoot and a look at some of the makeup effects. Surprises include the fact that the entire house was built on a sound stage (inlcuding the street outside and next-door- apartment complex) for $6 million and something as simple as a cell phone was created using CG.

Disc three continues the run through production and looks at some specific sequences and breaks them down piece by piece. Thanks to some text, you’ll know how many frames per second the scene was filmed in, what type of camera was used, and what type of film stock. Even though I had no clue about what half of it meant, it’s still fascinating. Another section leads viewers through each special effect sequence, some of which are hard to even imagine being a special effect. 21 shots in total are covered. Sound design and the films soundtrack are also covered extensively. This is one of the most complete and comprehensive DVD sets ever produced, even coming close to the massive Lord of the Rings 4-disc mega sets.

If anything is wrong here, it’s the packaging. The front simply says “Panic Room” in bold, red lettering on a black background. No picture, only Jodie Foster gets credit, and I can’t imagine anyone picking this set up out of curiosity. The back doesn’t even list a plot or storyline, only special features. Inside, things don’t get much better. The 3 discs are housed seperately on plastic holders bound together by thin plastic strips. I don’t see these lasting very long. Also, it too much to ask for a booklet or something?

Obviously, this release will only appeal to 3 sets of people: Those deeply interested in filmmaking, die hard DVD fanatics, and those who dearly love the movie. I can’t see it creating new fans thanks to the horrific cover art and those who are curious will be just fine with the single disc Superbit release. This set however will defintely be on “best of” lists by the end of the year, that much can be guaranteed. Thanks to it’s outstanding look inside the process, better quality picture, and flawless menu system. This is a must buy for DVD fans.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.