“Panic Room” is everything a thriller should be. It suspends the audience on the edge of their seats for the two hours of running time, it dazzles with special effects and heart pounding chases, and it leaves the audience breathless with anticipation. It is utterly formulaic, but it is a formula that works.
There are no plot twists, as seen in The Sixth Sense or even in Fight Club, which were directed by David Fincher also Panic Room’s director. This film doesn’t need such frills. It is a plain old-fashioned, almost Hitchcockian thriller. It needs nothing more than powerful performances, cool modern cinematography and the fast paced directing to keep it going strong.
Fincher did use some more of his fancy Fight Club style shenanigans. The scenes and characters are connected through electrical wiring, drainage holes, and locks in the stately, creepy, New York brownstone recently purchased by newly divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her teenage daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart.)
The home is beautiful, the sort that no one but the ex-wife of a pharmaceuticals magnate could afford and much too large for the two women.
Altman buys the house under the suggestion of the oily realtor who assures her that she will never find another one like it. Inside the house is a “panic room”, a small hidden room, where the houses occupants could survive for a month if need be. The room is stocked with water, blankets, a separate phone line and a separate ventilation system, all enclosed by three inches of steel.
Altman is sure they’ll never use it and, in fact, only does a half-assed job of installing the security system in their first night in their new house. Of course, that night is the night a trio of robbers break in, trying to get at an enormous sum of money hidden within the panic room. And of course, as soon as Altman realizes her home has been
invaded, where should she and her daughter go but the very same room.
This is such a fun role for Jodie Foster. Its a great time in Hollywood, when there are action star roles for women, not just sex symbols like Lucy Liu, Angelina Jolie and the Bond girls, but real roles where an actress can shine and kick ass. Of course, Foster does have the requisite low-cut tank top on throughout, but her priorities are clear: she’s a mom, and she will do anything to preserve her daughters safety. After her appalling work in Anna and the King and Contact, Foster has found a role she can sink her teeth into, have fun with, and prove she is still the acting powerhouse we all know she is.