Panic Room (2002)


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15  112 min  –  Thriller  –  3 May 2002 (UK)


David Fincher


David Koepp


Jodie Foster; Kristen Stewart; Forest Whitaker


Meg (Jodie Foster) and daughter Sarah Altman (Kristen Stewart) buy a new house, which has a mysterious panic room – the ‘Panic Room’ has only one function, and that’s to keep people out. Suddenly, late at night, intruders enter the house, and Meg and Sarah’s only place to hide is in the Panic Room itself…


Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart in David Fincher's brilliant chlaustrophobic thriller...

Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart in David Fincher's brilliant chlaustrophobic thriller...

Panic Room is like a game of cat and mouse where the cat and the mouse are static constantly, and have to think about what moves they must make next to outdo each other. To be blunt, this film is about three criminals attempting to get into a small confined room where our protagonists are hiding in fear. Of course, this must be incredibly difficult to direct: creating an atmosphere of tense  claustrophobia without seeming static or dull, whilst all the time building up plot, momentum and driving the narrative further at a fire-inducingly fast pace. David Fincher pulls it off.

What struck me first about this film wasn’t the ingenuity of its plot concept, but it’s visual style. It’s very similar to Fight Club’s: the camera panning in to the architecture of the walls, and then suddenly zooming in and in and in to absolute minute detail, whilst all the time moving, so we get a sense of what the world our characters are in – this is used in Panic Room, there are lots of long (CGI?) tracking shots which go straight through numerous walls of the house, and then suddenly turn upside down to show us the ceiling, until we bend back and then  suddenly zoom into an electrical cable, and then follow where the electrical cable goes to, until…oh, you get the idea. Essentially, Fincher puts a microscope on the house to tell us exactly the layout of the house.

Aside from Fincher’s sharp meticulously perfected style is a film oozing with good character development – there’s a neat section where the intruders attempt to try and “scare” Meg and Sarah out of the panic room by pumping the room with toxic gas. We immediately see the relationship between each of the individual intruders themselves; this scene, and indeed, all of the scenes that involve the intruders arguing unfolds like a detailed psychological case-study. To further add to this case-study is the cut-and-forth feel to the narrative, we jump back and forth from inside and outside the panic room, seeing how Meg and Sarah are feeling and then seeing how the intruders are seeing. As a viewer we get a very objective stance to the piece, we watch the events slip past, and due to this, the movie feels very intriguing, yet never comes across as trying to be too clever.

Similar events occur inside the panic room itself. These scenes are the embodiment of psychological realism, the methods that Sarah and Meg use to attempt to escape or scare the intruders away (“tell them to fuck off”) are utterly plausible, and this is partially due to the merge of drama and comedy in Koepp’s script.

Over all, Fincher’s film feels dazzling, bold and intriguing, but not as good as Fight Club. But then again, not much else is.


A film dazzling with wit, pace and style. It’s intriguing, tense and nice little thriller from a very talented director.


One thought on “Panic Room (2002)

  1. Pingback: David Fincher Reviews… « Star Reviews

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