Panic Room Review

Following the critical success of ‘Fight Club’, David Fincher has a challenge of making a film that can live up previous expectations of his fine work such as ‘Seven’. While also trying not to slip into the realm of bad works such as his debut, Alien 3.

But for all those expecting another Fight Club. This isn’t the right film. Though Fincher has done another fine job by making a very tense thriller. It’s such a shame that Columbia didn’t think about doing a real special edition (like Fight Club and the 2 disc Seven release) first instead of churning out a bare bones release. Though this release is somewhat similar to the American Superbit release of the film.

The film is about divorcee Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter, Sarah, (Kristen Stewart) who at the start of the film, are in the middle of house hunting. A close friend of Meg shows them a house that has yet to come on the market. A three-storey house in New York. While seemingly a great place to live in with large amounts of space, the house has one special item that makes it different from other houses.



A Panic Room. A room in which, in the event of the house being broken into, can be used as a safety room. Sealed off from the rest of the house thanks to three inches of steel surrounding the room, people can see what is happening in their house by using a set of surveillance cameras set around the house. With a separate phone line to the police as well, the panic room seems to be the ideal place to hide when your house is broken into.

Though Meg and Sarah were not planning to use it the very same night they moved in. Three men (Forrest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) break into the house, but with Meg and Sarah in the panic room, their plans have hit the fan. What the robbers want is in that very room and they know plenty about it. One robber, Junior, knew the previous house owner and another, oversaw the construction of the room. While Raoul is a hired gun. But the job has now become harder than they thought thanks to the Altman’s. Lucky for them Meg and Sarah can do nothing as the phone in the panic room is not connected and it’s now harder for the two to get out of this dangerous situation. What then follows is a number of attempts to get in the room by the robbers (by any means necessary) and numerous attempts by Meg and Sarah to get help.



Only a director such as Fincher could tackle Panic Room. For a story that has only one main location, Fincher has done such a good job with keeping the story going. Coming off Fight Club, most of his special camera moves are shown, the sequence in which the three robbers arrive is an example of this. Never cutting or stopping, it glides through the floorboards of the house and even through coffee pot handles. It is a superb shot that only Fincher could do. With a hint of Hitchcock thrown into the mix of directing. Fincher has proven to be one of the best American directors of the last few years.

As for the cast, Foster seems to be on fine form after a three-year break from movies delivering a good performance. She plays the concerned and also scared mother well and she does not overdo herself on this film. Her on-screen daughter, Kristen Stewart is good as well. Even though she’s playing a teenager, she isn’t the kind of teenager found in most films that are annoying. It’s more real life than high school cheerleading.



Fincher regular Jared Leto is very lively as Junior as he tries to control what is going on between himself, Forrest Whitaker’s character and Raoul. He tries to prove he is the brains of the operation. The character, however, shown here sometimes isn’t that smart. This goes well with the power shifting between the thieves throughout the film.

As for the other two thieves, Forrest Whitaker is excellent as the innocent thief. Just wanting a quick and simple job just to get the cash for a child custody battle, you really do feel sorry for him in the end. But out of the cast, it’s in my opinion that the character of Raoul steals the film. Another singer attempts acting this time, but it’s a country western singer. This guy pulls it off well; Dwight Yoakam is incredibly psychotic as Raoul. Though it takes at least half the film to really show how dark this man can be.

This is a tense thriller with some good twists along the way to keep the story going. Panic Room is a great film. It is an enjoyable film to make some heart rates racing with some of the tension given here. While it isn’t another Fight Club, it is another hit.



Video

With such a small amount of extras, you expect that the picture transfer of Panic Room should be superb and it is. The pictures gives no problems whatsoever, the film itself is shot in very dark colours, not surprising as it set during night time. The colours range from dark colours such as black and dark shades of green. There are brighter colours that come in during key moments of the film such as a fiery blue colour used as an explosion. Outside shots from the beginning scenes and the ending scenes nicely show off that autumn and rainy feel in setting of the film.

With little problems with the transfer, this is a great transfer and Columbia have done a very good job of it.



Sound

Identical to the region one release, the Region two edition sports a 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a DTS track. Panic room is not an explosive and loud film. Don’t except a loud boom coming from everywhere. However, the DVD makes good use of all audio channels to deliver a thoroughly atmospheric audio mix. It is extremely hard to say which track is better. They are both very atmospheric with weather sounds from the rain and thunder outside the house to the creeks and movement of feet inside the house. If I was to pick one, the DTS track did seem clearer. But these two tracks are both impressive.



Extras

As most Fincher films as Seven and Fight Club getting superb special editions with commentaries and featurette on the making of the film; hopes would be high for this dvd release. Well, sorry to disappoint all budding Fincher fans but Columbia seems happy just to throw a teaser trailer and a bunch of filmographies on to the DVD thinking it is going to make you happy.

This is generally the most disappointing aspect of the DVD. There is nothing telling you any aspect of the film and it is hardly surprising that Columbia have mentioned that a 2-disc set special edition of Panic Room is coming our way too.



Overall

If you are that desperate to see Panic Room again, I would suggest a rental of this version. It has great video and sound presentation that should keep any DVD buff happy for a while. But this version is not special enough to buy. Unless you really want the film and nothing else, this should do. If you are craving for extras, this version isn’t for you and should wait until Columbia decides to release the 2-disc set. Why couldn’t Columbia do it right over here just like Black Hawk Down?

Film
8 out of 10
Video
9 out of 10
Audio
10 out of 10
Extras
2 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

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