Worth A Look: 37.02%
Just Average: 23.2%
Pretty Crappy: 14.36%
14 reviews, 97 user ratings
Possibly the least believable Jodie Foster movie, Panic Room is also the most pedestrian. Few surprises await you, but seeing Foster swing a sledgehammer may just be worth sitting through the first hour.Possibly the least believable Jodie Foster movie, Panic Room is also the most pedestrian. It's a straightforward thriller, take it or leave it.
"Don't piss off Jodie Foster."
There are two ways to make scary movies. 1-Quick cuts to an unexpected frame, with ominous music, such as when the killer jumps out of the shadows at the camera; 2-Establish characters, introduce them into an environment that slowly builds tension and dread. I think method one is lazy. It's a shock tactic of the lowest order designed to scare an unthinking, desensitized audience that has ceased to pay attention to films because, except for these jump shots, they have become dreadfully boring.
Panic Room doesn't have a lot of jump shots. In fact, with a handy bank of surveillance monitors, we get to see everything coming from any direction, so there are none of those cheap shots. It is visually an honest film.
Unfortunately, the characters are introduced in generic terms, in a five minute sequence at the beginning of the movie. Jodie Foster is an overprotective single mom with a thick skinned teenage daughter. Seen it before? Luckily, Jodie Foster is the mom, and she's not about to portray a character so flat. So what we have is a thriller whose characters unfold in the midst of all that tension (which, by the way, is the best way to reveal character in the first place). She's still driven by her overprotective momness, but Foster's portrayal is nuanced enough to lend credibility to the character. Kristen Stewart, playing the daughter, is strong enough not to drown in Foster's wake.
Alas, this film is not a character study. It is ultimately driven by plot, and this is where it falls short. The panic room is an impregnable bunker in which mother and daughter take refuge when intruders break into their new home. The thieves are led by Jared Leto, who believes himself due an inheritance that is, coincidentally, locked in a vault built into the panic room's floor. Forest Whitaker designed the panic room's systems, and has been enlisted to break in. And finally, Dwight Yoakam, acting from behind a black facemask, is the experienced thug.
The expert Whitaker knows the panic room cannot be taken from without, and has ostensibly shared this information with Leto, his partner. This is a movie in which a major plot hole must be plowed through to start the wheels rolling, and I despise all such movies. Put simply, nobody guards the panic room. This allows mother and daughter to dash inside, just in the nick of time, and basically wait for the thieves to either kill each other or go insane.
Once you swallow this oversight, Panic Room becomes a decent thriller. It's fun to watch Jodie Foster get angry.
"Excuse me," she politely interrupts the thieves over the intercom. "Get out of my house!"
"Say fuck," encourages her daughter.
"You fuck!" screams Jodie.
Daughter rolls her eyes and says, "Mom! Say 'Get the fuck out of my house."
She may not be used to this hostility but she certainly warms up to it. Who knew? Jodie Foster is especially handy with a sledgehammer, taking out surveillance cameras right and left.
This is Hollywood, so the ending is preordained. It isn't as bad as it could be, though. Jodie doesn't get back with her ex-husband, though he does attempt to come to the rescue.I still don't know what Jodie Foster is doing in this movie. Maybe she needed the money? Whatever her motivation, as always, she makes whatever she's in watchable.
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originally posted: 07/12/02 11:48:34