It's a just-in-case escape with concrete walls, steel doors, and a bank of monitors that follows the movements of intruders.

PANIC ROOM

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


                Panic Room is professional rather than inspired, considered rather than spontaneous.  But it will still hold you tightly for all of its running time.  Jodie Foster, one of the few actors in Hollywood who can inhabit a WASP character as if the culture were her second skin, is edgy, smart, and tense throughout the ordeal that envelops her.  She does a good job of making Meg Altman resourceful without being melodramatic. 

                Meg (Ms. Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) have just moved from Greenwich to a luxury apartment (six working fireplaces and an elevator) on Manhattanís Upper West Side.  The apartment is a payoff from Megís ex who lives just across the park with his mistress Ė all the better for easy visiting.  A standout feature is the Panic Room that is embedded in the interior walls.  Itís a just-in-case escape with concrete walls, steel doors, and a bank of monitors that follow the movements of intruders. 

                During her restless first night, Meg realizes suddenly that the alarm system has been activated.  Grabbing Sarah from a deep sleep, she races to the Panic Room, shuts the massive door and settles in for the long siege.  Of the three intruders, two just may have been in this house before.  Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) is the hooded cool one, oddly familiar with the surroundings.  Burnham (Forest Whitaker) is the crook with a conscience; he wants the prize but doesnít believe in hurting people.  Junior (Jared Leto), the supposed leader of the group, is a real loser, a foul-mouthed coward who panics under stress.  Mr. Leto is unnecessarily theatrical in his role, leading us to believe that anyone this inept canít be a real threat.  Tension builds as we look to Burnham for help. 

                Sarah uses various strategies aimed at escape.  Some work, some donít, but they are appealing and gutsy given the situation.  These women intend to survive.  For the audience, the movie is blessedly free of the heart stopping fright that so often fills thrillers.  They scare us now and again, but in between we can relax during long stretches of silence while everyone sneaks around Ė the burglars trying to get into the dreaded room, the Altmans trying to get out.  Unfortunately, the silences slow  the pace of the film.

                Jodie Foster, stylish as always, is full of restrained, controlled energy.  She is unadorned, wearing only a spare black dress and the genetic gift of great bone structure.  We watch her fine face during the long close-ups as it registers fear and determination in equal measure.  This is basically a one-woman movie, and Foster is able to hold the audience.  Her inner intelligence drives the role. 

                If youíve already decided that Panic Room will be too much for you, think again.  Thereís plenty of time to recover your equilibrium between jolts, plenty of time to become intrigued, not terrified.  Itís a good thriller, but not a great one.

               

  Panic Room is professional rather than inspired, considered rather than spontaneous.  But it will still hold you tightly for all of its running time.  Jodie Foster, one of the few actors in Hollywood who can inhabit a WASP character as if the culture were her second skin, is edgy, smart, and tense throughout the ordeal that envelops her.  She does a good job of making Meg Altman resourceful without being melodramatic. 

                Meg (Ms. Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) have just moved from Greenwich to a luxury apartment (six working fireplaces and an elevator) on Manhattanís Upper West Side.  The apartment is a payoff from Megís ex who lives just across the park with his mistress Ė all the better for easy visiting.  A standout feature is the Panic Room that is embedded in the interior walls.  Itís a just-in-case escape with concrete walls, steel doors, and a bank of monitors that follow the movements of intruders. 

                During her restless first night, Meg realizes suddenly that the alarm system has been activated.  Grabbing Sarah from a deep sleep, she races to the Panic Room, shuts the massive door and settles in for the long siege.  Of the three intruders, two just may have been in this house before.  Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) is the hooded cool one, oddly familiar with the surroundings.  Burnham (Forest Whitaker) is the crook with a conscience; he wants the prize but doesnít believe in hurting people.  Junior (Jared Leto), the supposed leader of the group, is a real loser, a foul-mouthed coward who panics under stress.  Mr. Leto is unnecessarily theatrical in his role, leading us to believe that anyone this inept canít be a real threat.  Tension builds as we look to Burnham for help. 

                Sarah uses various strategies aimed at escape.  Some work, some donít, but they are appealing and gutsy given the situation.  These women intend to survive.  For the audience, the movie is blessedly free of the heart stopping fright that so often fills thrillers.  They scare us now and again, but in between we can relax during long stretches of silence while everyone sneaks around Ė the burglars trying to get into the dreaded room, the Altmans trying to get out.  Unfortunately, the silences slow  the pace of the film.

                Jodie Foster, stylish as always, is full of restrained, controlled energy.  She is unadorned, wearing only a spare black dress and the genetic gift of great bone structure.  We watch her fine face during the long close-ups as it registers fear and determination in equal measure.  This is basically a one-woman movie, and Foster is able to hold the audience.  Her inner intelligence drives the role. 

                If youíve already decided that Panic Room will be too much for you, think again.  Thereís plenty of time to recover your equilibrium between jolts, plenty of time to become intrigued, not terrified.  Itís a good thriller, but not a great one.

 


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