Anthony's Film Review

Panic Room (2002)

The suspense and twists definitely make this thriller work...

What would happen if someone broke into your home in the middle of the night while you're asleep? What would you do? Call the police? Get a weapon ready? The thought of a home invasion is pretty scary, enough that one would want to install a panic room, a secret protective room where one could hide, survive, and call for help. But now let's look at that scenario. What would happen if someone broke into your home and you escaped to a panic room, but you are still unable to call for help? To make matters worse, the intruders just might be able to get inside that room you're hiding in.

The 2002 thriller film Panic Room, directed by David Fincher, illustrates this all-too-terrifying situation, and it does so in a captivating way. Jodie Foster plays divorced mother Meg Altman, who, along with her daughter Sarah, played by Kristin Stewart, moves into a new house in New York. The house is not an ordinary one in the area, as it once belonged to a wealthy man who went as far as to build a secret panic room behind the master bedroom. Meg and Sarah quickly get settled in their new home, although the unpacking is nowhere closed to finished. Also, Meg doesn't quite get the home security system fully set up.

That, unfortunately, is when bad luck strikes. While Meg and Sarah are asleep, three robbers named Junior (Jared Leto), Burnham (Forest Whitaker), and Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) attempt to break into the house. They search various entry points until they find one that they could breach. At first, Meg and Sarah don't know what's happening. It takes a couple of minutes before Meg sees the intruders, wakes up Sarah, and run with her to the panic room. While they make it in, they don't necessarily make it out. The phone line from the panic room isn't working, so they can't call the police. The only thing they can really do, it seems, is to see the house through security cameras, watching nervously as the intruders work to get into the panic room.

What makes this movie work is the clever script. There are plenty of moments that feel like a tug-of-war, where Meg and Sarah might be able to save themselves but the robbers are still one step ahead of them. Also, little details about certain items do come into play in later parts of the story in interesting ways. As for the characters, they mostly have standard personalities for their specific roles, but the actors playing them do give them life. The one character that is no doubt the most interesting is Burnham. This is a criminal who will not hesitate to rob a house and has knowledge as a home security specialist to aid in this heist, yet he has enough of a regard for human life to not let Meg and Sarah get killed. His rationality does cause conflict with the hotheadedness of Junior and Raoul.

The other thing that Panic Room does well is visuals. I can pick out two scenes where I could not help but admire how they are presented. One involves the break-in itself. The camera remains entirely in the house and moves from room to room as the robbers try to break in at different spots. It generates suspense much better than a direct camera shot of the robbers outside the house. The other scene is where Meg has the chance to foil the robbers, but she has to momentarily step out of the panic room and risk getting apprehended. The scene is done in slow motion and makes the audience anticipate whether Meg will be succeed or perish. It's a good one.

Panic Room is definitely an enjoyable thriller from beginning to end. The best thing about it is that it doesn't waste a single moment. There are no filler scenes that do not move the story forward. On the contrary, the story, while not too fast-paced, is always moving forward. Like many good movies, Panic Room benefits from a good cast and a skillful crew that all work well together. If anyone has a chance to see Panic Room, I would say, "Step right in and enjoy the ride."

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Panic Room, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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