Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Directed by David Fincher and written by David Koepp, Panic Room is the story of a woman and her daughter who hide inside a secret room where robbers have invaded their new home. The film is a thriller in which a woman has to outsmart and hide from a trio of burglars who want something to steal as well as take care of her diabetes-stricken daughter. Starring Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam, and Forest Whittaker. Panic Room is a chilling yet engaging film from David Fincher.
What happens when a woman and her daughter buy a new home only to be invaded by burglars who are there to rob the house because of a safe they believe is in there? That is pretty much the premise of the film as it is a simple home invasion story where a woman and her daughter are forced to hide in a panic room after a trio of burglars broke into their home. David Koepp’s screenplay follows the recently-divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) as they try to find a new home unaware that it was the home of a reclusive millionaire who had created a panic room with cameras due to his paranoia. Once the two move in, their night of terror would begin with the trio of robbers who had hoped that no one was in the house but once they see Meg and Sarah who would lock themselves in the panic room. All hell breaks loose where things become very tense not just for Meg and Sarah but also for the burglars.
Leading the trio is Junior (Jared Leto) who knows about the house as he brings two men with great skill as one of them in Burnham (Forest Whitaker) is a skilled safecracker with a conscience as he immediately learns who is in the house as he is reluctant to do anything but knows he needs the money. The wildcard of the team is Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) who is new as Junior brought him in as he is someone that just wants the money by any means necessary. Adding to the tension of being inside the panic room is the fact that Sarah is diabetic as she is in need of an insulin shot or else she could die which only make things more tense. All of which play into a game of wits between the burglars and Meg.
David Fincher’s direction is definitely stylish for not just the fact that much of the film is set inside a townhouse around New York City but also for the tense atmosphere of the house once it is invaded. While Fincher would use medium shots and close-ups to create an intimacy into the compositions and the sense of claustrophobia that looms throughout the film. It is his approach to tracking and long shots that are the most interesting parts such as a sequence, with the aid of visual effects, where the burglars arrive into the home and it is this single take that follows every aspect of the house for the burglars to try to get in from the outside. It sets the tone for what is to come while the usage of video cameras surveying every aspect of the house show what Meg and Sarah are watching but don’t exactly hear what the burglars are saying.
Fincher’s direction also maintains that air of suspense as it play into the moments where the burglars try to break their way or even find a way for Meg and Sarah to leave the panic room. It has this air of ingenuity into who can outsmart who as it would intensify the suspense as well as the fact that things start to unravel among the burglars where Raoul would go into great extremes to get things done with Burnham being the most reasonable one. Even as Sarah’s condition becomes a plot device that would amp up the suspense yet it is effective where the burglars try to figure out what to do where one could care less about Sarah yet Burnham is the one that is concerned. A showdown does occur with Meg’s husband Stephen (Patrick Bauchau) coming into the third act where he finds himself in serious trouble prompting Meg to be the one to step up and fight for herself and her daughter. Overall, Fincher creates a gripping yet mesmerizing about a mother and daughter dealing a home invasion from burglars.
Cinematographers Darius Khondji and Conrad W. Hall do brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the few bits that are shot in the daytime exteriors to the usage of low-key lights and shadows to play into the suspense as well as the way the scenes inside the panic room are lit. Editors James Haygood and Angus Wall do excellent work with the editing from the way it plays up the suspense and drama as it relies on some slow-motion cuts for stylistic reasons while being very straightforward. Production designer Arthur Max, with set decorators Jon Danniels and Garrett Lewis and art directors Keith Neely and James E. Tocci, does amazing work with the look of the house in many of its interiors of the house in the way the rooms look like as well as the panic room itself as it is one of the highlights of the film. Costume designer Michael Kaplan does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual in the clothes that the characters wear.
Visual effects supervisor Kevin Tod Haug does fantastic work with the visual effects from the way some of the camera movements around the house occur to some of the scenes involving gas and fire is presented. Sound designer Ren Klyce does superb as it play into the suspense with its usage of sound in all of the aspects of the house from sparse yet low-key textures to moments that are loud. The film’s music by Howard Shore is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that play into the suspense and drama with its string arrangements and bombastic percussions to create that swell of terror.
The casting by Laray Mayfield is terrific as it feature some notable small roles from Ann Magnuson as real estates dealer Lydia Lynch, Ian Buchanan as a man giving Meg and Sarah a tour of the house, Paul Schulze and Mel Rodriguez as a couple of police officers who show up late in the film, Patrick Bauchau as Meg’s ex-husband Stephen, and the voice of Nicole Kidman as Stephen’s new girlfriend. Jared Leto is superb as Junior as the leader of the three as the one who has a tip about the house as the presence of Meg and Sarah ruin the plans as he tries to figure out what to do while also being evasive about certain things at the house. Dwight Yoakam is excellent as Raoul as a burglar who is all about getting the money by any means necessary as he spends much of the film wearing a ski mask which makes him very menacing as it’s a very dark performance from Yoakam.
Forest Whitaker is brilliant as Burnham as a burglar who takes the job for money as he is skilled with a lot of what happens but doesn’t want to harm Meg and Sarah where he becomes conflicted into what is happening where he tries to do what is right and the job. Kristen Stewart is amazing as Sarah as a young girl who is just a typical young girl that finds herself being terrorized as she stays in the panic room with her mother as she starts to get sicker due to her diabetes. Finally, there’s Jodie Foster in a phenomenal performance as Meg Altman as a woman who tries to protect her daughter anyway she can while having to outwit the burglars as it’s a performance that is just engaging to watch as it is one of her defining performances.
Panic Room is a sensational film from David Fincher that features great performances from Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, and Forest Whitaker. Armed with a strong supporting cast, a simple yet effective premise, gorgeous visuals, and a chilling music score. The film isn’t just one of Fincher’s most accessible films but also a fine example of suspense when it is just simple and to the point. In the end, Panic Room is an incredible film from David Fincher.
David Fincher Films: Alien 3 - Se7en - The Game - Fight Club - Zodiac - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - The Social Network - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 film) - Gone Girl
Related: 15 Essential Music Videos by David Fincher - The Auteurs #61: David Fincher
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