Review: “Panic Room”

After a trio of quite dark yet very engaging and original films ranging from bloodthirsty thriller to paranoia chase to dark social satire, Director David Fincher has come up with his most mainstream and light-hearted movie yet. Its a thriller with pretty much no blood or gore, set within the rooms of one house and relying entirely on a high concept which surprisingly works well.

This modern day update on Hitchcockian thrillers like “Rear Window” to the Audrey Hepburn starrer “Wait Until Dark”, is complete with sweeping camera movements, creepy lighting and only half a dozen characters for 90% of its runtime. Nevertheless it works – David Koepp’s script has some big flaws of logic, but the story is interesting, the action varied and well paced enough to keep things moving, plus great talent in front of and behind the camera has resulted in a thoroughly enjoyable battle of wits thrill ride.

Performances are great throughout bar one. Jodie Foster makes a welcome return to the big screen and proves this is a genre she was born for, except for one or two moments toward the end her actions are quite credible and believable – she brings a sympathy and down-to-earthness to a role that original actress Nicole Kidman wouldn’t have been able to show.

Kristen Stewart makes a great debut as her sassy but surprisingly wise daughter, Forest Whitaker is likable as the most humane of the bad guys whilst Jared Leto is a hoot as the very over the top unstable one. Dwight Yoakam on the other hand is one of the few elements which almost derails the picture. At first (while he keeps his mask on), he comes off well as the coldest and deadliest of the trio – after that though he turns into almost a Jason Voorhees type “wish to kill everything” style one-dimensional bad guy which is a shame.

The action moves swiftly, the first 3/4 of the film keeps the tension well taut and things which you wouldn’t expect to be thrilling turn out to be some quite exciting sequences. Only disappointingly in the last half hour it turns towards general Hollywood antics to give us a big ending. Writer Koepp seems to realise some of the contrivances within the movie and plays them for laughs (such as a video camera smashing bit). Is it formulaic? Sure, in fact quite a few elements like a sick daughter are cliche, but as Hollywood thrillers go this is certainly one of the few that actually thrills.