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Written by David Koepp
Directed by David Fincher

Running Time: 1:51

Rated R
for violence and language.

Jodie Foster
as Meg Altman

Kristen Stewart
as Sarah Altman

Forest Whitaker
as Burnham

Jared Leto
as Junior

Dwight Yoakam
as Raoul

Patrick Bauchau
as Stephen

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Jodie Foster stars in the tight, well-paced and very entertaining thriller Panic Room.

Meg (Jodie Foster) is going through a divorce with her rich husband Stephen and is looking for a nice townhouse in Manhattan to move into with her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart). They are shown a very nice brownstone/townhouse that has numerous floors, rooms and one special room off the master bedroom. It is a Panic Room - a room used for personal safety in the case of an emergency. It contains enough food and supplies to live off of for a couple of weeks, has a separate phone line not connected to the rest of the house, has a video surveillance system that covers the entire house and is surrounded by steel and concrete so no one can break in. Needless to say (otherwise there wouldn't be a movie) the day after moving in, three criminals break into the house, looking for a fortune left behind by the former owner. Meg and Sarah make their way into the Panic Room, and from there, the fun begins. The phone line in the room was never hooked up by security, so there's no way for them to call out. The criminals, who have the whole house to themselves, only want one thing, and that one thing happens to be in the panic room. Sarah has a medical condition that could cause her to fall into a coma and die if she isn't treated. And the criminals themselves start fighting over exactly how they're going to get into the room, and what it is they're after.

I found Panic Room to be a very enjoyable movie. It did a good job of getting to the heart of the story very quickly, and then throwing in some information that helped make the story more interesting. Revelations about the daughter and the criminals were brought out slowly as the movie progressed. Had they taken the time in the beginning to set up some of the details, it would have made the beginning too slow. This way they spent a few minutes letting you know Meg and Sarah, then immediately putting them into a bad situation. It was also explained nicely how the criminals thought that Meg wouldn't have moved in so quickly, which is why they were there in the first place. The house was created in a way that it was easy to have the participants interact on different levels without making the viewer wonder how it was possible for everything to happen. The movie kept up a good pace, with something always happening so that you were never left feeling bored. Even with the star of the film spending a lot of time inside a small, locked room the director (David Fincher) made you feel very tense and on the edge of your seat, wondering what would happen next.

The performances by Foster and the three criminals was top-notch. Jared Leto stood out as Junior, the 'mastermind' behind the break-in. Most famous for his role on My So-Called Life, Leto brought a great energy and comedic sense to this otherwise serious movie. Forest Whitaker brought a nice sensibility as a criminal who really didn't want to be there, but had his own commitments he had to work through. Dwight Yoakam was again almost unrecognizable as Raoul (even when he wasn't wearing a mask), the most serious of the three criminals. I'm starting to think Yoakam is someday going to win an Oscar for on of his roles, because between this and his outstanding job in Sling Blade he is easily the most talented musician ever to cross over into film. And of course Jodie Foster, who along with Gwyneth Paltrow are my two favorite actresses working today, does a great job (along with her cleavage which got a lot more screen time than in other films) as a woman who starts off scared for her life, but then comes together to fight for her and her daughter.

This is not to say the movie didn't have some flaws and some scenes that made you scratch your head and wonder how they knew that. I'm not sure I'd be able to figure out how to hot-wire a phone unless I'd done it before. And if you're across the street from someone, in Manhattan, in a rainstorm do you really think yelling is going to get their attention? Stick with the light ladies! What was nice was that the writer and director made each of the characters fairly smart so that they were able to play off each other in a high stakes cat & mouse game, with each one trying to out do the other. It made for a very entertaining drama played out on the big screen.

So overall I enjoyed Panic Room. It started quick and kept up the pace the entire way through. The script and the characters were well written and believable and even though in the back of your mind you know how the movie is going to finish, it still kept me on the edge of my seat.

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reviewed 03/30/02

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