David Fincher is one of my favourite directors. From Se7en to Fight Club (which is on after this if you’re interested), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to The Social Network, the man is brilliant. Now I’d be lying if I said I loved all his work (I really hate The Game) but the man usually never fails to impress me. I still need to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Zodiac, but right now I wanna talk about a film of his that always seems to be overlooked in discussions about him, and that’s Panic Room.
Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is a recently divorced woman who moves into a new apartment with her daughter Sarah (a very young Kristen Stewart). They find the previous owner of the apartment installed a panic room in case of burglars or criminals, something which doesn’t sit comfortably with Meg. On their first night, three criminals (Jared Leto, Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam) break in. Discovering this, Meg wakes up Sarah and they escape into the panic room. They tell the criminals via intercom to just take what they want and go. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple… what they want is inside the panic room. Refusing to grant them access, the thieves try all sorts of methods to break in, but with Sarah’s diabetes taking its toll, Meg must soon figure out a way of getting out of this safely.
It can be argued that the film is unrealistic. Of course, I’ve never been trapped in a steel room shying away from three dangerous men whilst trying to keep my daughter’s condition from worsening, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask. But if you think anything in the movie would never happen in real life, then I say take another book off the shelf. It’s a film, films are all about escapism. You wouldn’t watch Back to the Future and complain Doc Brown creating a time machine out of a car is ridiculous. Every film is unrealistic in some way, shape or form, but why you would let that ruin the film is beyond me.
Now, the cast: Jodie Foster is a superb actress; I’ve spoke of my fondness for her Oscar winning performance in The Silence of the Lambs previously on this site, but I have to say that I haven’t seen much of her body of work. In the movie, she is quite brilliant. The pressure she’s under shines through brilliantly, especially in her eyes. Kristen Stewart, however, is the weak link of the film. I can’t imagine how surprised you are right now. Whilst she’s not exactly the emotionless grump we’ve suffered with for five movies, she very nearly falls into the category “Annoying child character you love to hate” (See: Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds). Her acting isn’t great no matter what the character is like, with awfully delivered lines and general screen presence which isn’t very enjoyable (though I’m told both Fanning and Stewart give great performances is The Runaways). Now, the burglars; Dwight Yoakam is quite possibly one of the creepiest film characters I’ve ever witnessed. He is genuinely scary, which contrasts with Forest Whitaker’s kind hearted burglar; sure, he’s breaking into their house, but his idea of a get in, get out job is far different to either of the other two, and certainly more reasonable. Whitaker plays a man who is here for no other reason than the fact he needs to be. Jared Leto is someone who’s work I’ve not seen much, bar Fight Club, and whilst I thought he was quite good in this movie, I got a very Colin Farell vibe from him, like he was the actor who should be playing the role. Still, he did a good job.
Overall, the film is tense and at times genuinely scary, but is also smart with a mostly great cast and consistently great director.
Panic Room is on Friday 21st June on Film4 at 21:00 (UK only). Let us know what you thought down in the comments!