The Scoop: 2002 R, directed by David Fincher and starring Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart and Forest Whitaker.
Tagline: It was supposed to be the safest room in the house.
Summary Capsule: Mom and offspring hole up against the forces of two burglers and Raoul.
Justin’s Rating: My panic room is my bathroom, okay? Are you happy? I go there to cry.
Justin’s Review: David Fincher feels cheated that he never got to direct Die Hard. Sure, he was just a babe in swaddling clothes back in 1988, but still! It’s the Finch-man, and he deserves to direct the best movies of all time. But since time travel has not been perfected yet (outside of recalled sports cars, phone booths and H.G. Wells novels), Fincher did the next best thing: he made his own Die Hard! His motto? Smaller! Sleeker! More femininity!
Seriously, the deja vu that hits you like a muggy blanket right before you’re kidnapped in this film is so strong that you’ll swear Fincher interrogated John McTiernan at gun point so that this “homage” would be perfect. From the opening titles that are eerily reminiscent of Die Hard’s “something bad’s gonna happen” titles to the bloody, bloody end, the rip-off is complete. But it doesn’t make it any less fun in the trying.
Instead of a 40-story skyscraper for our story to run around in, we get a 3-story house. Instead of computers controlling elevators, bank vaults and lock-down gates, we get a nifty panic room that has an Inspector Gadget’s worth of technocities inside. Instead of twelve terrorists bent on being really mean, we get three robbers bent on sort of being mean. And instead of Bruce Willis-sans-shoes, we get Jodie Foster-sans-shoes PLUS little kid-sans-insulin. It’s all a feel-good setup, complete with an angry camera that zips and zooms around the place like a very steady fly, wishing that it had more than three stories to explore.
Robbers come in the house looking for some money or something. Jodie Foster and kid are in the house, but they weren’t supposed to be… yet. Because she had to tinkle (really), Foster discovers the robbery in progress and ushers her and her kid into the titular panic room, where they’re safe. Or are they?
Well, no, because that would be a pretty short and pointless film. But at least it wouldn’t have had me getting increasingly mad at the plot contrivances that are created to limit the security and power of this room. You see, this panic room is completely encased in steel, making it impossible for anyone to break in. But there’s no problem in accessing the air vents from the outside, apparently, and gassing the place. The panic room has a phone with a separate and buried phone line (they mention this like four or five times), yet it’s never turned on for the course of the film. The panic room has security monitors (which, no doubt, would put a hamper on any young teen’s social life), yet they’re lacking any proper useful purpose other than to transmit the message, “You’re in big trouble.” The panic room has cases of food and medical equipment, but it’s not only lacking insulin (the kid’s diabetic, such the blatant plot device to put some sort of time limit on their holiday in that room), but is also lacking any type of food that has sugar in it. It gets kind of ridiculous after a while (and apologies for spoiling tiny little plot thingies all over the place here, but I haven’t told you any of the ways they solve these problems, so there). Fortunately, Fincher is a capable enough director to keep this bottle of milk from going sour.
Now I know that the world isn’t quite the same after having that odd lead character in Real Genius and the It’s Pat movie coming out, but androdgyny doesn’t go over well with me. For one thing, it confuses me and gives me a headache. In Panic Room, Foster’s kid is so androdgynous that you’ll spend half the film trying to solve the question: boy or girl? Unfortunately, there aren’t any “bathroom” or “Alec Baldwin kissing me” sequences to solve this conundrum, so I guess finally after a while you come to the conclusion that it’s a girl. Congrats! It’s a girl! Have a cigar! Seriously, when the audience is distracted from the main plot of the movie trying to determine the gender of one of the only six characters in this film, perhaps it’s time to throw in a line like, “Hey! My ovaries are growing!” or something.
[Side story: Back in Colorado, we had one of these androgynous kids in our youth group. His/her name was Sam, and for WEEKS all of the adult leaders would try to puzzle out whether Sam was a boy or girl. You’d talk to Sam and never quite be sure. So finally, one of our female leaders went over and gave Sam a pat on the back, then came back with the report, “Bra strap”. Good to know]
I didn’t hate this film, didn’t love it, I merely liked it. I think my only major, major quibble was a sequence when Foster runs out of the panic room to get an important item that has no importance whatsoever after she gets it, and Fincher did the entire… scene… in…. slow……….. motion……….. I watched for ten seconds, letting the suspense build as was desired, and then went, “What the heck, this is why God invented the fast-forward button.” And even in fast-forward, the scene was still slow!
It’s okay. I’ll recover. Resume your normal daily activities.
- Nicole Kidman was originally cast to play the role of Meg Altman, but was forced to back out of the role after eighteen days due to a recurring knee injury. She originally injured the knee during the filming of Moulin Rouge! Nicole Kidman was the voice of Stephen Altman’s girlfriend on the phone.
- Funky 3d titles (notice how the movie’s title is reflected in windows).
- Why would you pack your cell phone charger in a box while moving?
- Good thing you’re clomping around on wooden floors there, Mr. Robber!
- Shouldn’t the alarms be going off when the “zones” are “disarmed” from somewhere other than the “alarm control panel”?
- What exactly is wrong with Whitaker’s left eyelid? It’s starting to freak me out.
- The side view with the elevator/hallway is kinda cool. I want an elevator in my apartment!
- “Will you shut up and let me think” — the most overused phrase in the crime thriller genre.
- Fun and games with propane. Propane is heavier than air and once pumped into the panic room would have sunk to the floor, not remained at the ceiling.
- 911 puts you on hold now?
- Whoa… nasty headshot.
- Way to go kid, why don’t you just STARE at the camera monitors so the criminals can follow your look?
- Don’t forget your fingers!
- Sucks to be Raoul
Junior: Who *are* you?
Raoul: I’m Raoul.
Meg: Strip this, and expose the wires.
Sarah: What are we doing?
Meg: I have no idea.
Meg: It’s disgusting how much I love you.
Burnham: I spent the last 12 years of my life building rooms like this specifically to keep out people like us.
Meg: This whole thing makes me nervous.
Lydia Lynch: Why?
Meg: Ever read any Poe?
Lydia Lynch: No, but I loved her last album!
Burnham: This is what I do, if some idiot with a sledgehammer could break in do you really think I’d still have a job?
If you liked this movie, try:
- Red Eye