Typically, a good number of suspense thrillers can get away with providing a sense of stress solely through musical crescendos and moronic women scampering either up the stairs or into a closet (when they should be running outside—courtesy of Scream)—making it completely obvious that danger is soon to appear on screen. However, Panic Room is one thriller where both of the film’s protagonists skillfully remain indoors to stay away from the threat at hand.
Suspense and tension are around every bend in this smart and superb production, and thankfully, there are no big-breasted bimbos in sight. Panic Room contains intelligent characters who continuously attempt to outsmart each other. It’s like a game of cat and mouse combined with a chess match between Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. Overall, Panic Room is a platonic picture that provides not only an excellent screenplay, but also thrills, chills, and astonishing camera work.
In the late 19th century, it was common to have a “panic room” – a room that is completely surrounded by concrete and steel to keep out danger – in your living quarters. Nowadays, panic rooms are near non-existent. While house-hunting on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristin Stewart) come across an impenetrable hidden fortress in an 1879 townhouse. They purchase the brownstone-esque house with a fully functioning panic room intact; the room contains food, water, its own phone line, and enough working security monitors to view every corner of the house.
After unpacking a few of thier belongings and ordering a pizza, both Meg and Sarah fall asleep for the first time in their new home. While the mother and daughter are in bed, three men (Forrest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakum) break into the house with one objective in mind. Meg wakes up, manages to grab Sarah, and locks the both of them inside the panic room for protection. Unfortunately, what the men want is in that room.
From its eclectic opening credits – where the names of the cast are up against skyscrapers – to its closing credits, Panic Room flaunts its style. Director David Fincher, who previously showed his stuff in Seven and Fight Club, parades his panache even further in Panic Room. Frankly, no review of this film would be complete without mentioning Fincher’s glorious camera work. His smooth and unhurried tours of the mansion – through cracks of doors, keyholes, and coffee pots and from floor to floor, room to room, and inside to outside – provide for a creative and captivating view of the occurrences. Fincher also uses slow motion, silence, and a gritty lack of lighting to fabricate a splendid aura of ultimate suspense.