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Panic Room (R)
Columbia Pictures
Official Site
Director: David Fincher
Producer: David Fincher
Written by: David Koepp
Cast: Jodie Foster, Forrest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakum
Rating: out of 5

After seeing the latest film by the estimable David Fincher, I find myself in dire need of my own personal panic room. Not that Iím besieged by robbers on a nightly basis, or anything like that. I just feel that it would be nice to have a room that can be used to shut yourself off from the world. Maybe I could actually find time to finish reading one of the many books that compose the K2-like stacks next to my bed. Now, youíre thinking to yourself that, perhaps, I have completely missed the point of the aforementioned film, Panic Room. No, I most certainly have not. My wanting a panic room of my own has nothing to do with the plot. Itís simply the byproduct of seeing a cool new toy displayed in such an attractive fashion. Take any man in America to see this film and by the end credits, he will have already decided whether the Jim Brown or the Joe Theisman poster will go up on the wall of the panic room heís decided to build when he gets home. The whole idea has me giddy, and I am rarely giddy.

Letís simplify things. Panic Room is good. Very, very, very good. I havenít seen a thriller this well crafted in a long time, in part because the genre is so difficult and also because there are few directors out there who can do it right. Make no mistake, this is David Fincherís movie. He is, unquestionably, the star, the core of the film, reducing all of the actors to mere set pieces that he controls. Which is not to say that Jodie Foster and company donít turn in lovely performances. Foster is quite good (and might I add fetching) in her part, lending a life and humanity to what could have been a one-note role. Equally impressive are Forrest Whitaker, displaced country music star Dwight Yoakum, and Jared Leto as the trio of crooks who have overtaken the Foster home. Yoakum in particular deserves many accolades, having transformed himself from a lovable guitar-slinging bumpkin into a bad guy of such menace and venom, itís literally frightening to watch him.

But enough of the actors. Good as they all were, they are out-shown by the living, breathing entity that is David Fincher's direction. The whole movie pulses with its own energy, thanks in no small part to the innovative camera work and split-second timing that Fincher has deployed. He turns what is basically a story about two people trapped in a fancy closet into a breathless, armrest-gripping nightmare, just by sheer talent. I am very excited by his work and I feel that he is only getting better. I believe heís only a few pictures away from a true masterpiece. As it stands, Panic Room is, I feel, his best work to date, fond as I am of †Fight Club, Seven, and The Game. Panic Room just feels complete, like nothingís missing from the puzzle. Sure there are some minor quibbles (Fosterís character seems to know a lot of McGuyver-esque moves, for some reason) but as I said, theyíre minor. I want to also mention the Rube-Goldberg-ian script by David Koepp, which provides a nice framework for the artistic drapery of Mr. Fincher. Koepp has one of the spottiest filmographies Iíve seen, with work ranging from the highly underrated horror flick Stir Of Echoes to the embarrassingly bad Snake Eyes, so itís nice to see him back in top form. One hopes he will continue on in this vein.

†All in all, itís a thriller that deserves at least a mention in the same breath as the works of Hitchcock. While not quite a Rear Window (one of my favorite films), itís certainly the closest thing weíve seen to it in a while. For that, it should go down as a very successful movie, box office bonanza or not. Now, if youíll excuse me, I have some steel doors to install before the guy with the security system arrives.

ó Clinton Davis


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