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Awesome: 18.78%
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14 reviews, 97 user ratings

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Panic Room
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by Erik Childress

"The First True Female 'Die Hard'"
4 stars

For years, Hollywood has tried to please societal’s dominant gender as well as increase their own box office take by headlining the action genre with a female star. Everyone loved when Princess Leia took the battle to them in Jedi, Meryl Streep had to battle bank robbers on The River Wild, Lara Croft kicked some ass and robbed our wallets in Tomb Raider and audiences are anxiously awaiting the return of Trinity in The Matrix sequels. While this has proved more successful than not, other than Shannon Tweed (No Contest 1 & 2) or Anna Nicole Smith (Skyscraper), women have yet to have a chance to tackle the “terrorists in a confined space” scenario until now because David Fincher’s Panic Room is the closest we’ve come to a film worthy of the banner “a female Die Hard.”

Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is getting out of a bad marriage and looking for a new place to take up residence. With her scooter-lovin’ daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart) in tow, they come across a beautiful New York Brownstone with a secret. Like a secret passageway in the game Clue, this house contains a state-of-the-art panic room, designed for the sole purpose of protecting its inhabitants from home invasion or, at least, playing one helluva game of Hide-And-Seek.

But the panic room has secrets of its own and sure enough (in what seems like their first night of settling in), three burglars, in one of the most extraordinary break-in sequences ever filmed, entre nous under the noses of the new homeowners sending them scurrying into the impenetrable security threshold. With no way in for the intruders and no possible escape for Meg and her daughter, all the players of this game would seem to be at an impasse, but that’s just where the thrills begin.

There’s nothing more I can say about the plot and, frankly, you wouldn’t want me to. Suffice to say that what transpires from here is a cat-and-mouse game that makes Tom & Jerry look like amateurs. The screws are turned, the ante is raised and re-raised and nobody is willing to check to the next player. David Koepp (Stir of Echoes, Jurassic Park), who may be one of the most underrated screenwriters in the business, has fashioned a very clever script that outdoes all the expectations by keeping the action fresh and interesting for such a limited simplistic idea. Hopefully his magic will rub-off with his work on this summer’s upcoming Spider-Man.

Of course it helps when you have a director capable of delivering the ideas in a way that even the writer could never have imagined and that’s David Fincher. To say I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with his projects is hardly indicative of his work. After all, he’s only made four films prior to this and one of them was Alien 3. I was a not a big fan of The Game either (where Foster was originally scheduled to play the Sean Penn role), but when Fincher is on HIS game, he’s dead on. For God’s sake, this is the guy that delivered both Seven AND Fight Club, two of the best films of the 90s.

Panic Room may not live up to such a status come 2010, but it’s as superb a thriller as you’ll ever see. Fincher may only be working with certain dimensions within the home and inside the panic room, but he finds ways to show us things that even the realtor wouldn’t pick up on. He takes us inside doorlocks, through the floorboards, in and out of ventilation shafts and into a lightbulb. The tracking shot used (with a little CGI help no doubt) to detail the break-in is reminiscent of Brian DePalma at the top of his game, who of course was reminiscent of the best of the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

The loan hero(ine) against the outnumbered adversaries goes back all the way to High Noon. This kind of home invasion will remind many of the classic Audrey Hepburn thriller, Wait Until Dark, and if Panic Room has any fault at all, its not in the treatment of the villains’ plans, but in the predictability of their personalities. Forest Whitaker (so superb here) as Burnham, the securities expert, is the professional who is hesitant of following through on the robbery with people home. (He also has an estranged family with child support payments.) Jared Leto is Junior, the unstable pseudo-leader who knows what the panic room has to offer. And Dwight Yoakam is the effectively creepy Raoul, a kind of silent partner that you don’t want to mess with. (Think Peter Stormare in Fargo.)

Where Yoakam does represent the unpredictability that a great villain exerts, discussions between the three of them bring an air of obvious anticipation that this film doesn’t need. Those familiar with Wait Until Dark can easily see Whitaker as Richard Crenna, Yoakam as Alan Arkin and Jared Leto as a younger, thinner, cornrolled Jack Weston who smokes crack. The performances of these three, however, bring more edge and depth to them than your average collection of colorful antagonists even if at times the film turns into a very adult version of Home Alone with our heroine using more lethal objects other than jacks and paint cans. When you discover what the thieves are after, the Die Hard factor truly comes full circle.

Panic Room is the result of taking an idea that anyone who activates the creative part of their brain could have come up with and sold on spec to a studio head and then elevating it into the hands of a master craftsman who actually puts his blood, sweat and tears into every frame. So many modern thrillers are thrown into an overhyped and underwhelming frenzy by music video directors who think that the editing machine is their best friend. David Fincher was a music video director. He’s now a full-blown A-list filmmaker who’s each successive project is met with an anticipation by film lovers reserved only for names like Spielberg, Scorsese, Zemeckis and a handful of others. Panic Room is a great thriller, one that can’t be delivered to audiences by cutting corners. Fincher goes through them. (Note: I’ve never heard so many people comment on the opening credits of a film before. “The coolest opening credits” is the talk. My friend and colleague, Nick Digilio of WGN Radio in Chicago went further in saying “they are the coolest opening credits since Fight Club, which were the coolest opening credits since Seven.”)

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4733&reviewer=198
originally posted: 03/28/02 17:27:51
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User Comments

3/12/17 morris campbell tense well directed 4 stars
1/04/09 Samantha Pruitt interesting idea, acting is good, they seem to have though of everything! 4 stars
8/12/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Okay,we get it.Jodie Foster is one bad mutha...shut your mouth.Hollywood,please...new idea! 1 stars
2/11/08 Mike Hunt 110 minute gimmick movie. Time will not be kind to this fincher wreck. 1 stars
1/22/08 Double M A typical Hollywood thriller + Fincher's style. OK, but for Fincher, it's too disappointing 3 stars
1/14/07 Gloria Dornin I loved it, made me want to get a Panic room!! 4 stars
12/02/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
10/09/06 MP Bartley Jodie Foster, Woman of Steel! 4 stars
4/04/06 Dk Tense taught thriller that may be one of this centuries finest 5 stars
8/11/05 ES Dwight steals the show here, he's a really good actor= superb movie experience 5 stars
6/18/05 Nicole A disappoint after Se7en & Fight Club - I expected better 3 stars
4/03/05 indrid cold An odd idea for a movie. Not great but definitely "worth a look." 4 stars
2/26/05 Alice Colwell boring 3 stars
11/17/04 John Bale Smartly directed thriller with plenty of shock moments. 4 stars
9/19/04 R.W. Welch Neatly plotted cat & mouse game has some weak spots but entertains. 4 stars
8/16/04 Ana Marie It was kinda creepy... And Kristen acted well at that age. 5 stars
7/08/04 JME Not much to work with, but everyone involved pulls through - minus Koepp 4 stars
6/13/04 MyGreenBed Fincher has that great glossy-yet-arty look to his films, however this one has nothing but. 2 stars
2/03/04 Charles Tatum Unbelievable premise, arrogant direction, but great acting and pacing 4 stars
1/29/04 LIAM JACKSON i like the way raoul changes from a silent background observer to a truly menacing psycho. 5 stars
12/08/03 Samuel A very realistic film, strong performances!! 3 stars
10/18/03 Psiseeker let's keep this simple "110% TERRIBLE" If u like it, u r retarded 1 stars
8/17/03 Lorraine I love Jodie Foster but she chose the wrong movie here - rubbish 2 stars
8/12/03 It's just me I love this movie. It's really entertaining. Jodie Foster is an amazing actress. 5 stars
5/14/03 joshx42 Bad ending, good film. 4 stars
4/16/03 Nicole I expected much better 3 stars
4/14/03 reptilesni I was actually on the very edge of my seat. Some plot holes but who cares? 5 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Creatively bankrupt and lethargically rendered. Foster, though, is terrific. 1 stars
2/13/03 Andrew Carden Horrifying Film With Twisted Screenplay and Eerie Direction. 5 stars
2/01/03 paul Great suspense, disappointing ending. RUN FOREST RUN!! 4 stars
1/29/03 Ken Very tense, well-directed thriller. Best opening credits ever. 4 stars
1/13/03 Mitsaso If it wasn't for the stupid ending... 4 stars
11/28/02 Monster W. Kung STEVE, Fight Club is Fincher's best easily. Whoever thinks different is a retard, like you. 2 stars
11/16/02 PsiSeeker My ending. Forest gets $, millionairess, brat, 2 tards get offed! :-) 2 stars
11/08/02 Phil M. Aficionado Awesone, until the cliche ending. Imagination please. Great camera work. 4 stars
10/22/02 palaboy101 A fairly big part of the story centered on a product placement for NOKIA 3 stars
10/01/02 John McNew A terrific, tense and fun, edge-of-your-seat thriller! Kudos to Foster and Kristen Stewart! 4 stars
9/22/02 .Choadushouse. Beautiful direction. And great performances. Definatly worth seeing. Fincher is the man. 4 stars
7/14/02 Roy Smith Blah - made by the guy that did Fight Club? Really? You sure? 3 stars
6/22/02 David A. Not as bad as Ocean's 11, but still a boring "science of being a crook" thing. Yawn. 3 stars
6/06/02 crush I loved it 5 stars
5/26/02 Nicole Big let down if you have seen other Fincher flicks 3 stars
5/23/02 Kristen very disappointing 3 stars
5/18/02 Chowie very good, but i felt as if they just eneded the movie coz they didnt know what to put next 4 stars
5/17/02 viking well made, but not Fincher's best 4 stars
5/14/02 Stud This movie was non-stop suspenseful!! 5 stars
5/12/02 Amy I expected more from a Jodie Foster movie. 3 stars
4/28/02 dave macdougall compared to every other Fincher movie.... this one sucks 2 stars
4/25/02 Nick2k hmm...don't expect a 'surprise ending'. we need more good movies with whitaker. 4 stars
4/21/02 Monster W. Kung Very disappointing, considering this guy directed Fight Club. 3 stars
4/15/02 Lauren anyone who rates this above "average" has to get out more! 3 stars
4/14/02 Lachlan bland and shallow- the best part is the titles at the satrt of the film. the script is diab 2 stars
4/12/02 Thor-Leo A fairly satisfying ride 4 stars
4/12/02 oldgoatmon not a jodie foster movie, why did she do it? Predictible and in retrospect little movement 2 stars
4/12/02 Punky Brewster If youve never seen a thriller before in your life, you might consider this to be "Awesome" 3 stars
4/12/02 CJ one of the few movies I'd like to see again 5 stars
4/11/02 Matthew Smith one of the year's best thrillers that will have you jumping out of your seat . 5 stars
4/11/02 margie yntema awesome 5 stars
4/09/02 Janine Lay not great, too hokey, diabetic daughter pushed the limits being stuck in the room like that 3 stars
4/09/02 spikeme502 Jodie Foster has more balls than most working actors 5 stars
4/08/02 bullit17 Fincher does it again. Hand-wringing, nailbting suspense and intensity 5 stars
4/07/02 Nicole Not a typical Fincher film and not really suspenseful if you have seen any of the previews. 3 stars
4/07/02 stoolie-bird generic fast food for the brain...not worth your time or money 3 stars
4/07/02 Koitus Compared to the rest of the CRAP that the industry is putting out these days -- 4-stars! 4 stars
4/06/02 FrayLo Sure, may be corny at times, but still a good suspenseful movie. 4 stars
4/06/02 Jessi Lacking in Plot 3 stars
4/05/02 Rapper S. Delight This one's for Forest Whitaker & Jodie Foster, while Leto & Yoakam are over-the-top fun 5 stars
4/05/02 Nicholas Schoonover Most worthless movie EVER! Bought the script from a 6th grader who wrote it in 20 mins. 1 stars
4/04/02 Obi Wan Hello Claris . . .I loved your new movie that Kidman turned down! Good 4 you!!! 5 stars
4/03/02 Dave MacDougall cookie cutter bad guys..... 2 stars
4/03/02 Spanky Typical non-human-acting characters. Why such a big gap between reality tv & fictional? 3 stars
4/03/02 dannyevans good movie, but the propane would have settled on the floor thus killing them in the fire 4 stars
4/03/02 orpy entertaining to a point, stupid ending 3 stars
4/02/02 Butterbean I saw plots like this on Lifetime TV. Have your date pay for you to see this one. 3 stars
4/01/02 lauren mccreight nothing you haven't seen before.... 3 stars
4/01/02 Dr Laura Is A Bitch (Doo dah, doo dah...) Engaging, gripping, slightly disturbing. Slight constant-crisis syndrome. Get the video. 4 stars
4/01/02 spaceworm Way better than the other stuff that opened today - a classic for its weekend. 4 stars
3/31/02 KMG This movie was outstanding...but where was Lecter? 5 stars
3/31/02 CoffeeVixen jesus christ, i came close to shitting my pants over the suspense! this movie rocks! 5 stars
3/31/02 Todd Beamer Best thriller in quite some times...and it actually delivers!! Bravo!! 5 stars
3/31/02 Ziggy Stardust Stylistically perfect. Just a fun flick to see. Not as scary as one would hope. 5 stars
3/31/02 skafunkrastapunk Amazing film making. Every shot was there for a reason. Be sure to watch the titles. cool 5 stars
3/31/02 Superdave Grandtastic 5 stars
3/30/02 Olivia Sands Whatever happened to Jodie Foster? 1 stars
3/30/02 malcolm great camera work, but there's never any doubt that Foster and the kid will be OK 3 stars
3/30/02 Chuck and Fran Great movie! Would have been better with more exposition and character development. 4 stars
3/30/02 Film Dude The best movie of the year so far - but it isn't hard to beat what else I saw this year. 5 stars
3/30/02 Film Guy Finally a GOOD movie. Panic Room Delivers 4 stars
3/30/02 ajayrockrock when people "count to 3" why don't they ever kill anyone? Great Movie!!! 5 stars
3/30/02 Gary I saw this with the movieman, and I find it just as good as he did, an exciting movie 4 stars
3/30/02 Michael ***** Tihs movie was the best movie of 2002 so far(Jodie Foster kicked ass) 5 stars
3/30/02 Zero182 Top-notch thriller. The screenplay/script is superb and the tension is gripping. 5 stars
3/30/02 frank a technical masterpiece. 4 stars
3/29/02 BO Despite all the femminazi psychobabble about 'dominant sex', this was a good movie. 4 stars
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  29-Mar-2002 (R)
  DVD: 30-Mar-2004



Directed by
  David Fincher

Written by
  David Koepp

  Jodie Foster
  Kristen Stewart
  Forest Whitaker
  Jared Leto
  Dwight Yoakum
  Ann Magnuson

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