Mommy, are we going to die here?

Panic Room

Directed by David Fincher

(Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto)


While this latest thriller from David Fincher fits nicely into the director’s oeuvre (Fight Club, Seven and The Game), Panic Room marks a definite and welcome departure for the filmmaker. His previous films relied on the shock of a surprise twist in the plot, but Panic Room draws its thrills from the more subtle-and more difficult to pull off-use of suspense.

This Hitchcockian shift by Fincher will no doubt displease some staunch fans of his previous work, but it shows a definite maturation process for the director.

The plot of Panic Room is very straightforward- simplistic even. Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) moves into an upper-West-side brownstone with her daughter Sarah (played by the talented Kristen Stewart). The hook: the apartment comes with a fully functioning “panic room”, a room surrounded by a foot of steel, equipped with its own phone line, ventilation system and surveillance equipment.

The Realtor explains the room by saying, “One really can’t be too careful about home invasion these days.” This line, coupled with the film’s tagline of “It was supposed to be the safest room in the house,” illuminates the true intentions of the film to serve as an extended metaphor for post 9/11 paranoia and disillusionment. This idea is introduced even in the opening credits. As the camera pans across the Manhattan skyline (conspicuously missing two of its biggest features) the words “Panic Room” are superimposed in steel block letters. After all, wasn’t Manhattan supposed to be “the safest room in the house,” impervious to any sort of “home invasion”?

Of course, on the Altmans’ first night in their new home, someone breaks in and the two barely make it into the panic room. However, what the thieves are after is hidden inside the room itself. This is where Fincher gets to try his hand at some Home Alone-styled high jinx as the thieves try to get into the room and Foster attempts to fend them off. Thus, if we were to extend the metaphor further, Foster’s character would represent a very bosomy Tom Ridge. Did I really just write that?

Anyway, without giving too much away, the film’s ultimate theme is one of perseverance and renewal. Like the city itself the characters in the film decide to keep on keeping on, and life in New York continues.

– Christopher Yocum


Panic Room opens Friday in theaters nationwide.