Panic Room is a difficult movie to write about as the teasers do not even touch what this movie is about. Not as good as director David Fincher's other works such as Se7en, The Game and the great Fight Club, this movie still has a lot to offer. There is one huge glaring problem in this movie though, but I will get back to that later.
Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, a divorced woman who is looking for a new place to live with her daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart). Meg seems to have gotten some good money from her ex-husband and it seems like price is no object with the new place. They are shown a place that Sarah really likes, but Meg is a little more tepid about. Meg is shown the Panic Room, a room that can sustain people in it for a long time should something go wrong in the house. It has a steel door and a bunch of monitors with rooms of the house in full view. It also has its own vent system and even has its own phone that is not connected to the main line of the house. Meg has a lot of questions about this room such as how the steel door could be stopped from closing. Well, there are lasers that when tripped will stop the door. Problem is it is alluded to that Meg is very claustrophobic and she obviously does not like this enclosed room very much. Meg decides to buy the house.
On their first night at the house after coming in about a week before they were supposed to, some burglars break into the house and turn off the alarm. One of the burglars, Burnham (Forest Whitaker) works for the security company that built the system for the house. He is joined by Junior (Jared Leto) and Junior's friend Raoul (Dwight Yoakam). Raoul was not part of the original plan and Burnham is a little bit miffed that a new guy has joined the team. They are there to find the millions of dollars hidden somewhere in the house. They figure this will be an easy score until they see boxes on the ground floor. They figure out there are people in the house. Meg wakes up after hearing something and grabs Sara and they go into the Panic Room and shut the door. The burglars need to get into the Panic Room because that is where the money is, unbeknownst to Meg and Sarah. Raoul seems to want to just kill them, but Junior and Burnham put some sense into him saying they need the women alive to get into the Panic Room.
This is where the game of chess starts. The burglars try to find a way to get the women out of the Panic Room while Meg and Sarah try to figure out how to contact someone to help them. Meg is getting agitated because of her claustrophobia and some other things happen to both her daughter and the burglars as the movie goes on. At one point Meg gets out of the Panic Room looking for something in particular and it is very intense as she gets out and tries to get back into the Panic Room before the burglars get to her as they are arguing downstairs.
This movie is very thrilling, but not as scary as the teasers would like you to believe. There are some very tense moments, but this is purely a psychological game between the women and the burglars. Both sides have great ideas to meet their goals and it is very interesting to see what kind of heights they will go to finish their plans.
The camera work is good in this movie much like other Fincher movies. Sometimes the camera follows the action through the materials used and the camera moves effortlessly through the rooms and floors of the house. The acting is very good and country singer Yoakam is given very little to say. These are the strong parts of the film, but there are weak spots as well. The big weak spot is the sudden realization of the idiosyncrasies of the characters. I mentioned Meg was claustrophobic, but they only allude to that. They do not come out and just say she is claustrophobic. The daughter also has a problem that is foreshadowed very subtly. No one truly knows what her problem is until it comes to a head. Sure there are clues, but since I do not have the daughter's problem, how am I supposed to know what the problem is? This weak point is not enough to overcome how good this movie is overall though. Foster and Whitaker deliver great performances and Fincher is getting very good at playing these chess-like games in movies. He did it in Se7en, The Game and Fight Club. They all messed with your mind while this is more a straightforward chess game in a static setting. Of course each movie had different writers and David Koepp does a good job here. I just wish he would have fleshed the characters out a bit more.
Final Thoughts: Panic Room is a very good movie that is hurt only by its lack of doing a better job in foreshadowing the idiosyncrasies of the characters. This movie will keep you thrilled and make you wonder exactly what is going to happen next. Foster, who came on this role at the last minute (Nicole Kidman dropped out because of the ankle problem, but her voice is still in the movie), and Whitaker are the best actors in this movie, but the others do a good job as well. I highly recommend this movie for a good thrill as we move into the jam-packed summer months.