Panic Room


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Panic Room
"[Fincher's] usual energy id distinctly dampened;... and the stock tacked on ending only serves to enhance the feeling I was watching a jumped-up TV movie."

Having very much enjoyed David Fincher's previous work (especially Se7en and Fight Club), I went into this movie full of anticipation, despite the presence of Jodie Foster, who impressed me with her Hotel New Hampshire era performances but whom I have found altogether too saccharine over the last decade, with sentimental schlock like Nell and Little Man Tate.

As it turns out, Foster handles her part impressively, and it is Fincher who disappoints, though I get the impression his style has been heavily compromised as a result of studio pressure. His usual energy is distinctly dampened; his comic instincts restrained, and those sort of jokes, when played without confidence, fall painfully flat; and the stock tacked on ending only serves to enhance the feeling I was watching a jumped-up TV movie. However, that said, Panic Room certainly has its moments, and I've a feeling that there was a top class film in here once.

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Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about this movie is its opening credit sequence, which combines unusual perspective with sombre music to impressive effect, setting the tone for what was to follow.

Also impressive is Kristen Stewart, who plays Foster's daughter, and it was refreshing to see this type of part handled without recourse to cuteness. The kid is, in fact, the only character in the film who never does panic. Trapped in the eponymous chamber after their house is invaded, our heroines show a decent amount of intelligence and resourcefulness in protecting themselves and trying to get help (though it is, in some ways, all the more frustrating that apparently smart characters fail to employ what seem like obvious solutions).

Sadly, the personalities of the robbers are underdeveloped, and they fail to convince as suitably dangerous antagonists. Forrest Whittaker is good as always, but he is playing a part he's played many times before, and his character is too limited to permit any real build-up of tension. This is, essentially, a Hitchcockian concept, and needs characters as strong and capable as Hitchcock's in order to properly impress.

It thankfully manages to avoid most of the claustrophobia, chase and hostage drama cliches which one might expect in association with such a premise, at least up until the final running around and fighting scene, which is incoherent and altogether substandard. Impressive in places, worth watching for Foster and for the concept, but don't panic if you miss it.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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Panic Room packshot
A woman and her daughter are stalked by a trio of thieves on their first night in a luxury apartment, with contains a monitor-equipped safe room.
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Read more Panic Room reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: David Fincher

Writer: David Koepp

Starring: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Patrick Bauchau, Ann Magnuson, Ian Buchanan, Andrew Kevin Walker, Paul Schulze, Mel Rodriguez

Year: 2002

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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