If David Fincher directed Home Alone...
MikeInMotion - wrote on 08/01/12
If your house was broken into during the middle of the night by 3 men, what would you do? Would you call the cops and then hide under the bed? Would you get your loved ones and try to get out of the house and run for your life? Or maybe you might have the courage to get a gun and fight back? Our main characters have none of these options, so they choose the only one they have: hide in the panic room.
Meg Altman is a recently divorced mother of an 11-year old daughter named Sarah who has just bought a brownstone in New York City. The previous owner of the house was a millionaire recluse, whose background isnít delved into very much. The main thing that intrigues you about the previous owner is their panic room. It is surrounded by concrete steel, has a security system that contains several surveillance cameras, and has its own separate phone line. Why would a person have such an impenetrable room? Do they sense that trouble is coming for them?
As it turns out, the trouble came to Meg Altman, because after the previous owner died, 3 burglars had been forming a plan to break into the house and find a safe that is rumored to contain millions of dollars. Their plan was to break in before the new owners moved in, but, unfortunately for them, they broke in the first night Meg and her daughter moved in. Fortunately for Meg, she is having trouble sleeping, and just so happens to spot the 3 men making their way up the stairs. She has just enough time to get her daughter and hide inside the panic room.
What follows is a very high-stakes game of cat and mouse. Meg communicates with the burglars through the PA system, and the burglars communicate with Meg by writing things on paper and showing it to the surveillance cameras. They are basically in a stalemate, because the burglars want what is in the panic room, but if Meg and Sarah leave the panic room they will be killed. This results in many trial and error situations for both parties, as Meg and Sarah are trying to figure out how to escape, and the burglars are trying to figure out how to break into the panic room.
For a film with such a basic plot, it could have very easily failed. It all takes place inside one house, and the burglars want to steal what is inside a safe. Thatís it. However, David Fincherís directing really elevates this to something more. He is very good at showing the pros and cons of each personís situation, and all of the emotions that come with them. The cinematography and the score mix to create very thick suspense throughout the films runtime, with one instance using slow-motion and muted sound to create a very intense scene. There are a few situations where the plot goes a little too far, as a few things that happen (or donít happen) made me shake my head a little because it was just implausible. Still, even though problems were present, it still had lot of things that worked.
One of the main areas where the film really thrives is the acting. Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, and she is very much believable as a stressed-out mother who is doing everything she can to keep her daughter safe. However, the man that really stole the show was Forest Whitaker as one of the burglars named Burnham. His character was definitely the most fleshed out of the burglars, you got a sense from watching him that he was very much torn throughout the whole ordeal, and that there is more to him than what you will initially believe.
When all is said and done, this was an effective little thriller. The plot is light, but it is heavy on the elements that make a very relatable situation believable and thrilling. The situation that befalls our protagonists could happen (and does happen) to anyone, and the shock of it all happening so suddenly and the feeling of being helpless is very scary. Panic Room isn't David Fincherís most deep or complex film, but it is definitely a nice change of pace.