johnlink ranks PANIC ROOM (2002)

PANIC ROOM is probably the most lightly regarded of the David Fincher films. The movie went through a couple of casts. In fact Nicole Kidman actually was far enough along that some of the set was built with her height (and not Jodie Foster’s shorter stature) in mind. The movie was going to be small, and turned out to be a huge production which came in way late. But, of course, none of that matters much ten-plus years out. So how does it hold up now?


I watched PANIC ROOM (2002) on 8.4.13. It was my third viewing of the film, and first since probably ’03 or so.

A recently divorced Meg (Foster) and her young daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) move into a sprawling NYC apartment. The master bedroom contains a secure panic room which, unknown to them, contains some riches. A few men (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) show up to relive the room of the riches, not knowing it newly contains tenants. Shit goes down, resulting in the women locked in the panic room with the criminals attempting to get in. This is a movie which takes place, except for a prologue and epilogue of sorts, all in the course of a single evening.

Believe it or not, Kristen Stewart is not entirely annoying in this. She’s amazingly annoying as an actress now, but she actually showed some promise as a kid. Jodie Foster is solid, as is her usual. Leto provides the proper loud crazy and Yoakam has the quiet crazy. They provide the proper foils to the level-headed Forest Whitaker, who is the main reason this movie gets elevated beyond the every-day film. He really nails the guy who is in over his head.

Fincher tries to do a little too much with this movie. He brings the camera through walls and ceilings and tight spaces (like the handle of a coffee pot). This was revolutionary at the time (I remember being amazed in theaters), but looks incredibly like CGI a decade out. People just weren’t using CGI for the ordinary house at the time. And it is amazing, now, just how obvious and unrealistic these tricks look. Some of these shots veer towards directorial masturbation, though we aren’t talking an egregious case of DM.

Really, eleven years out, this just plays like an above-average thriller with solid acting, revolutionary opening credits (for the time, the concept was later stolen by the show FRINGE), an oddly ineffective opening scene, some borderline scenario creation (especially everything after the last exit from the panic room), and a bunch of unnecessarily ambitious direction. Howard Shore provides a solid if unmemorable score. Ultimately, though, you can’t go wrong with PANIC ROOM. It’s good enough to entertain, and light enough to make it rewatchable every ten years or so.





~ by johnlink00 on August 6, 2013.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks PANIC ROOM (2002)”

  1. I remember really liking this at the time but you bring up a good point about the CGI – it probably (or doesn’t) stand the test of time…

  2. Great movie, and LETO ROCKS!!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: