a critiQal film review Panic Room (2002)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: Meg Altman (Foster) and her daughter move into a new house in Manhattan, complete with a panic room: a safe room totally shut off from the rest of the house with it's own air supply, buried phone line, and emergency supplies. Meg quickly discovers a use for this room as three men, searching for a hidden safe left by the previous owner, break into the house her first evening there. The only problem is, like Meg and her daughter, the safe is in the panic room.

444 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 13s)
  • ...Foster and Whitaker help make this a solidly good thriller.

I first saw the preview for Panic Room months ago. It seemed interesting, but I was unsure if it could live up to it’s preview.

It did. Panic Room is a tense, edge-of-your-seat thriller, that keeps you on your toes until the end. Some of the scenes are a bit predictable, especially towards the end, but you aren’t sure if they are going to go the way you think they will (they don’t….some of the time), so those don’t really detract much from the movie.

The characters of Panic Room are not incredibly involved, but enough of a past is built up, and enough emotion seeps through, that you still care about what happens to them. If you didn’t, the film would fall apart right there. It doesn’t really matter what happens to the characters if you don’t care about them, does it? Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker (remember him from that weird film The Crying Game?) turn in decent performances, although Forest outshines Jodie most of the time.

Panic Room has a typical home invasion plot, but the panic room is a nice new twist on the theme. Add to that the three bad guys who don’t really agree most of the time, and the plot gets a bit of depth. The basics are all there as well, so those extras just add to the film.

The suspense is palpable throughout most of Panic Room. Having Meg and Sara locked in the panic room, where they can see (but not hear) pretty much everything that goes on in the house, is great. You could almost put yourself in their shoes, which is what any suspense thriller wants you to do. The music is a bit overdone at points, but for the most part contributes to the feel of the film, rather than overpowering it. Since you’re trying to figure out what the bad guys are going to do next as much as Meg and Sara are, the suspense grabs you and holds you throughout.

With a nice twist to an old plot, decent acting turned in by a variety of people, good use of music, and a fast pace that keeps you in suspense the whole time, Panic Room is one of the better thrillers I’ve seen in a while. A major detraction is an incredibly small list of special features (just the theatrical teaser!), which would have been a great add-in. If you haven’t seen Panic Room yet, I would definitely recommend it. I’m not sure if it would stand up under repeated viewings, since you already know what’s going to happen.

My recommendation? A definite rental, and a possible buy.

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