I have moved people into houses like that, and let me tell you something, I hate each and every one of you and you know why!
Written By: David Koepp
Directed By: David Fincher
David Fincher is a visually stunning director and he knows how to make visually interesting movies. Panic Room features some incredibly intricate live camera and virtual camera work. Virtual tracking shots have never looked better or most importantly been as interesting. The other thing that Fincher does is create a claustrophobic feel to Panic Room. He doesn’t give any of the characters, victim or attacker, a chance to breathe, they are always on top of each other. Panic Room can’t have wide open spaces, because if it does then the sense of entrapment and dread would be lost. On every level imaginable Panic Room succeeds visually, even if Dwight Yoakam does take the mask off.
Acting wise everyone in Panic Room is on par. Forest Whitaker is just right as the sympathetic villain, Jared Leto as the annoying crook and Yoakam as the psychotic. I don’t think there are many women out there who could have pulled off Meg Altman as well as Jodie Foster did and Kristen Stewart was very adult and mature as the daughter. The music in Panic Room accompanied the action nicely, Howard Shore did a superb job of creating atmosphere and tension through his score. Outside of its visual style Panic Room shone the brightest in its script. Up until the conclusion it avoided most thriller cliches and did a deft job of building and creating suspense. Other critics have remarked that Panic Room resembles a game of chess and I would have to concur. There is a give and take between the burglars and the occupants that was very believable.
One thing that always annoys me about movies is obvious product placement, and the scene of Meg walking down the hall with a Mayflower logo looking the the viewer square in the face was far too obvious for me. As well crafted as the story was, I felt that at the end it veered into unbelievable territory, but most of all it stopped working within genre tropes and instead went for the full on obvious ending. When it becomes obvious what Whitaker’s character is going to do and that there is only one way for the story to be resolved the tension immediately evaporates and the ending leaves you unfulfilled.
Panic Room isn’t the best film from David Fincher, but it a very good film and I’d say it’s his forgotten work in the middle of more famous movies such as Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. The tension is high, the acting is choice, and while the resolution leaves a little to be desired the set-up and the visual style more than make up for that. Panic Room is an oft overlooked Fincher film that anyone can give a chance without reservation.