Jodie Foster hasn’t starred in a film for a while and, for reasons she hasn’t publicly revealed, decided to pick up the role of Meg in David Fincher’s latest offering, Panic Room, when our Nicole had to stop because of an injury to her knee. Fincher is well known for the gritty Se7en and Fight Club but we shouldn’t forget that he also did Alien 3 and really is a video director as well as a cinematographer.
Panic Room is Fincher’s foray into a women-in-danger picture, a sort of adult’s Home Alone without the humour. Women-in-jeopardy of course is not a new theme and has featured in pictures as far back as D.W. Griffiths’ 1909 film The Lonely Villa. Fincher draws on many influences in his latest outing, from films such as Lady In A Cage (1964) and Repulsion (1965) to Rear Window (1954) as well as the celebrated Edgar Allan Poe suffocation fantasy poem, The Cask Of Amontillado.
Panic Room is an above average thriller which is entertaining but not altogether inspirational. Apparently panic rooms, like castle keeps in medieval times, are the vogue amongst wealthy Americans especially since 11 September. Perhaps this explains some of the huge box office success the film has had in the US since it opened.
This is a one-set piece. All the action happens in a huge, cavernous Manhattan brownstone during one rainy (of course) night. The film does have a stunning visual style, from the impressive opening credits to the floating camera effects. Fincher has a strong camera sense himself and it shows. Two cinematographers were also involved. The Iranian-French Darius Khondji, famous for Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, who apparently was fired because he took too long, and Conrad W. Hall (American Beauty, Sleepy Hollow), son of the very able Conrad L. Hall who won an Oscar for Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.
Foster is reasonably strong in the role, her best in years, and Forest Whitaker is believable as the crim with a heart. The other performances are less successful, too thinly drawn, one-dimensional caricatures. Plenty of eye candy for the girls too -“ thanks to her pregnancy and the birth of her second son, Jodie has the best cleavage she’s ever had.
Unfortunately you need to suspend your belief and knowledge of physics when watching Panic Room. There are plenty of factual errors and inconsistencies. The thin screenplay and narrative, as well as the lack of character development, are flaws but Fincher still contrives to make you jump. Unfortunately, instead of suspense he uses violence which is why the film has an MA rating. The screenplay was written by David Koepp, who also wrote two of the Jurassic Parks and Carlito’s Way as well as the forthcoming Spider-Man. Koepp wrote and directed the infinitely more accomplished film Stir Of Echoes (1999). Canadian Howard Shore, who has just won an Oscar for The Lord Of The Rings, provides very atmospheric music. Shore also wrote the music for Se7en, Silence Of The Lambs and Philadelphia.
Panic Room is very much a popcorn movie, highly entertaining in a way and certainly the best thriller we have seen come out of the States for a while.