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A.J.'s Rating:  4 Fear-Filled Stars
Panic Room
Directed By:  Dsvid Fincher
Written By:  David Koepp
Starring:  Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam
Rated:   R ( Violence / Language )
Running Time:  118 Min.
    'Panic Room': The secure area within a building or house designed to protect a person or family from danger or attack. 
    In this, the age of home invasion, many feel the 'panic room' to be a viable solution to other, less civilized security measures.  In conjunction with a home alarm system, the 'panic room' provides an impregnable defense against those who would cause harm.  In the movie Panic Room, this safe haven also becomes the most dangerous place to be!
    Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, a newly divorced woman who, along with her young daughter, Sarah, has just moved into a spacious Manhattan brownstone.  The very wealthy and recently deceased former owner had a 'panic room' built into the home, which could be of great benefit to Meg, that is, if she could only overcome her claustrophobia!  As luck would have it, three uninvited guests are about to give Meg and Sarah a crash course in dealing with small, confined spaces.
    Did I mention that the story takes place on a dark and stormy night?  It is said that no decent thriller begins this way, but this movie proves that theory wrong.  As with director David Fincher's previous thrillers Se7en and Fight Club, Panic Room is full of unpredictable plot twists, original characters, an incredible amount of violent action, and even some cunning humor. 
    Heightening the tension and excitement are excellent performances by the entire cast.  There is great chemistry between the three home invaders, Burnham played by Forest Whitaker, Junior played by Jared Leto, and the mysterious, ski-masked Raoul, played surprisingly well by country singer Dwight Yoakam.  Whitaker is a bit type-cast as Burnham, but that's only because the role suites him so perfectly.  Kristen Stewart, as Meg's daughter Sarah, is just right as the tough tomboy who still prefers the safety of a partially lighted room when she goes to bed.  And for my money, no other actress shifts from wide-eyed terror to determined defiance and back again as effortlessly or believably as Jodie Foster. 
     Now, I'm a fan of thriller and horror films, and I've seen more than my share of each, so it usually takes quite a bit to rattle me at the movies.  Having said that, Panic Room had half the audience squirming, flinching, or gasping for most of the film (me included), and the other half attempting to watch between the two fingers not currently being used to shield their eyes from the festivities. Oh, and of course there's that one part guaranteed to lift anyone two feet from their seat.  I won't say when that is!
    So, if you're looking for a great fright, Panic Room is the first rate, nail-biting thriller you've been waiting for.  It's Home Alone as Alfred Hitchcock would have made it!
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Review published
April 4, 2002
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