Monday, 28 May 2012

Panic Room Commentary

I saw this movie back when it first came out in 2002 and remember that I really liked it.  But, ten years later, I had basically forgotten everything about it except that Kristen Stewart plays a precocious little girl with diabetes and her and Jodie Foster had to try and protect themselves agains a home invasion by one very bad man (Dwight Yoakam), a somewhat bad man (Jared Leto), and a man who has been forced into doing something bad (Forrest Whitaker).  When you wait that long between screenings of a movie, sometimes you are just as entertained as the first time you watched it.  That is the case here.

The success of this movie is really due to two things: the writing and the directing.  While the acting is strong all around, it never becomes anything more than that.  In fact, Yoakam's performance goes downhill when his ski mask comes off and he goes from detached sociopath to crazy sociopath.  Stewart's performance is quite good and probably the best of the cast.  This is because I actually found her annoying as a spoiled, bratty only child from a rich broken home.  When that is the intent and the result, it's a pretty good performance.

As I said, the writing is very good.  Panic Room is a very tight movie that has few, if any, holes.  Karl and I thought we had found a couple and then realized we were wrong.  The only problems I could find maybe had to do with how to deal with a diabetic teenager in a situation like that.  But I'm not an expert and will assume that it was all close enough.  The end result surrounding that plot point was quite satisfactory because it made you care about Whitaker's character more (even though just the fact that Whitaker is playing the character is usually enough to make you care about his fate).

Because this is a thriller of the first order, the intent is to build tension from the start until you are almost ready to pop.  In order to do this properly, there has to be a few small releases through comic relief and this is done very well through Leto's character.  There are just enough shots of his bumbling to make you relax a bit and then it build up again.  It is fantastic work from director David Fincher.  Because it is a Fincher movie, it is very darkly lit with only enough colour for the situation.  There is also a fantastic blend of closeups of things like cables and ducts leading into the panic room and slow motion to keep it different for the audience.  Finally, one of the things that makes Fincher a good thriller director is the use of music.  If you look at his IMDB page, you'll see that he has a strong background in music videos.  Time and again, he has taken that background and translated it well to feature films.  Even with the superior camera work and writing, I would say it is the use of music and sound in Panic Room that really builds the tension to the proper heights.

Definitely see it.  If you like thrillers that are self-contained in one act and locale, this is definitely for you.

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