March 29, 2002
Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker,
Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, and Kristen Stewart
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By Movieguide Magazine
- In "Panic Room," recently-divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and
her emotionally-distant daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart), move into a spacious
New York home with a mysterious closet-shelter called a panic room. Installed
by a wealthy and paranoid former occupant, the panic room is considered "the
best place to be in the worst case scenario." It contains video monitors
to view all the rooms in the house, emergency supplies, a separate ventilation
system and phone line, and, best of all, an impenetrable steel door that opens
and closes very quickly.
As a storm rages during their first nights stay, three burglars break in
to the new home believing it to be empty. One of them is a security expert
and family man (Forest Whitaker), sort of a burglar with a conscience. The
youngest is a greedy insider who coordinated the job (Jared Leto). The other
turns out to be a dangerous psychopath who will not be crossed (Dwight Yoakam).
They seek a fortune hidden by the previous owner, and, after much arguing,
decide to finish their job even though Meg and Sarah are found sleeping. The
men are convinced that millions await them, and, therefore, the mother and
daughter will have to be killed.
Meg wakes up to use the bathroom, however, and catches a glimpse of the men
on one of her security monitors. As the men are seen walking up the stairs,
Meg frantically races to wake her daughter and make their way to the safety
of the panic room. A heart-pounding chase scene ensues, and the storys tension
continues to constrict right up until the end of the movie.
Meg and Sarah quickly learn that the burglars are after something inside
the panic room and find the new outside phone line has not yet been activated.
Refusing to leave, the burglars begin securing the homes exits so that they
will have time and privacy to eventually break into the stronghold. To save
her daughters life, Meg must make several attempts to slip out of the shelter
while the burglars argue and work in other parts of the house. Meanwhile,
her daughter faces other terrifying threats in the form of convulsions and
a possible diabetic coma.
"Panic Room" is an intense and intelligent thriller with many clever twists
and surprises. It is frightfully scary and filled with violence and rough
language. The story feels stretched so tight that the plot always seems just
about to break, but the steel frame of the superb cast and director (David
Fincher of the successful nail-biter, "The Game") holds it together while
the tension is ratcheted up to staggering levels. The storys very believable
characters keep the audience locked in their seats, until they feel as trapped
as Meg and Sarah are.
David Fichers direction is, at times, both excellent and annoying. Camera
pans and impossible movements seem to be the latest rage in the new age of
computer graphics. Still, he manages to show realistic situations and characters
while making tremendous use of one old house. Regrettably, the story ends
abruptly and a little awkwardly. To be fair, it may be difficult to avoid
an anti-climactic ending after nearly two hours of emotion-filled tension
on the screen.
Meg and Sarah, initially distant, angry and self-absorbed, are brought closer
through this experience and their relationship is restored. The ex-husband,
while clearly self-centered for abandoning them, shows a willingness to sacrifice
his life for their safety. Justice is portrayed in a very positive light and
the characters wrestle with doing good instead of evil. Best of all, New Yorks
police force is shown in a very positive light.
Regrettably, many moral and redemptive elements of bravery, courage and sacrifice
do not seem to outweigh the rough R-rated language laced throughout the movie.
"Panic Room" is a seductive steel trap intent on flooding the audience's mind
with foul language and powerful violent images. Thus, there is no real safety
or sanctuary inside this "Panic Room."
Please address your comments to:
Amy Pascal, Chairman
John Calley, Chairman/CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com/
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