These days, David Fincher is the big cheese within Hollywood, having directed last year’s Oscar favorite The Social Network, as well as arguably 2011’s most anticipated Hollywood production, December’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. With all of his recent fanfare, it’s easy to overlook his earlier, less-heralded yet altogether top-shelf flicks, namely 2002’s Panic Room. Nine years after its theatrical debut, Fincher’s claustrophobic thriller hasn’t lost any of its rich cat-and-mouse tension.
Jodie Foster stars as a divorced mother who moves with her teenage daughter (a young Kristen Stewart, years before the first Twilight book was even written) to a posh NYC brownstone that has a vault-like “panic room.” The mini fortress is put to use once three criminals (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) break into their pad, looking for a stash of cash that’s inconveniently located inside the “panic room,” where Foster and Stewart are hiding. Making matters worse, Stewart’s a diabetic in need of medication, which, naturally, is stored outside of their safety room.
Fincher mines David Koepp’s taut script—a heart-pumper with devilish maneuvers from its villains and brainy retaliations from a rock-solid Foster—for a sufficient amount of suspense; as the violence escalates along with the stakes, Panic Room treats its audience with respect, earning its thrills without gratuitous bloodshed or nonsensical plot twists.