| 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
†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