Panic Room, starring Jodie Foster, is one of the most gripping thriller movies I’ve seen in quite a while. It originally came out in 2002, but I missed it then. The excellent reviews convinced me it was a film I had to see, and the reviews were right (it isn’t always the case, of course!)
The central idea is simple. Foster, recently split from her rich husband, and with a troublesome teenage daughter in tow, acquires a tall house in Manhattan that has its own panic room – in effect, a steel safe room where the householder can hide in the event of some form of unwelcome intrusion. It’s inaccessible, and equipped with a range of CCTV screens monitoring different parts of the house.
On her first night in her new home, Foster is disturbed by the arrival of three burglars. She flees with her daughter into the panic room – only to find that what the intruders want is inside the panic room itself.
The claustrophobic atmosphere is very well done, and director David Fincher piles on the tension with gusto. There are several heart-stopping moments, and the interplay between the ‘hostages’ and the intruders is cunningly manipulated. This isn’t a film with layers of sophisticated meaning – there isn’t much about the shortcomings of a society where panic rooms are necessary bolt-holes for the rich, for instance. But judged as a straightforward thriller, it ranks high. And above all, it is memorable for Foster’s performance. She is very good indeed. It’s hard to believe that the part was originally intended for Nicole Kidman.