Panic Room (2002)
Directed by David Fincher
Take David Fincher, master of suspense and director of such thrillers as “Se7en” and “Fight Club,” and put him with David Koepp, who has written the screenplays for such action juggernauts as “Mission Impossible,” “Spider-Man,” and “Jurassic Park.” What do you get? The pulse-pounding 2002 gem “Panic Room,” which takes the home invasion thriller to a terrifying new level.
A divorced mother (Jodie Foster) and her young daughter (Kristen Stewart) move into a beautiful new home in Manhattan. Unfortunately, they move in on the same night that three men (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakum) planned to break in and take the treasures they know lie inside. Not even the victims’ conveniently impenetrable panic room can save them from the inevitable.
While she doesn’t quite top “The Silence of the Lambs,” Jodie Foster gives a rambunctious action performance. She still had that Clarisse Starling spunk. A young, boyish Kristen Stewart may have hit her career peak early. It sounds like a joke, but she gives this one her all and even shows some emotion! Forest Whitaker is the right mix of malice and heart as he balances getting what he wants and impressing his conscience. His partners-in-crime Leto and Yoakum don’t care as much. Leto is a creeper extraordinaire in cornrows, a year after his incredible performance in another thriller, “Requiem for a Dream.” The enigmatic Yoakum isn’t eager to reveal too much about his character too soon, just like Fincher is wont to do with his characters.
The home invasion thriller is a simple concept, but “Panic Room” keeps it exciting for two hours despite the fact that it all takes place inside the home over the course of a night. You’ll catch yourself wiping sweat off your brow, holding your breath, at the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. All of those clichéd reactions to thrilling movies actually come true. Fincher is a Hitchcock of the modern era. “Panic Room” is “Rear Window” with more immediate peril.
It’s an inventive twist on a sub-genre that had been getting boring. There’s no big shocking plot twist, either. It’s just a breathtaking thrill ride with no brakes. Buckle in.