The Safest Room in the House

Panic Room is a thriller for the modern age. Although it’s not as acclaimed as Se7en or Fight Club, David Fincher’s suspenseful filmmaking is perfectly suited for close quarters survival. The movie takes place almost entirely on one night with a mother and daughter seeking shelter in the titular panic room when three criminals break into their house. It’s a simple premise with a small cast, but the production was surprisingly hectic. Apparently Nicole Kidman and Hayden Panettiere were originally cast as Meg and Sarah Altman. Panettiere dropped out and was replaced by a very young Kristen Stewart. Kidman also dropped out due to an injury and Jodie Foster had to replace her at the last minute.

The combination of Foster and Stewart is ironic since the former also got her big break as a child star in an R rated thriller. Meg is a divorced mother who purchases a giant brownstone New York house with four-stories, an elevator, and the advanced panic room with built-in video surveillance. Though Meg shows signs of claustrophobia, Foster’s casting turned her into a less helpless character. Further problems arose when Foster became pregnant during filming. Which is why her sexy cleavage baring tank top is replaced by a sweater in later scenes. Sarah is mature for her age, but she’s also a sick kid with diabetes who needs an insulin shot.

The three criminals have very distinct personalities and play off each other well. Forest Whitaker is the well intentioned Burnham who installed the panic room, Jared Leto is the eccentric Junior who wants a large sum of money in their safe, and Dwight Yoakam is the unhinged Raoul who wears a mask and carries a gun. Fincher builds tension by taking the camera through every inch of the house using CGI. The most intense moments involve Sarah leaving the room to get her phone, dealing with a gas leak, and trying to find her daughter’s medicine. As the night progresses, Sarah’s ex-husband and the police get involved, but by the end, the tables are turned. Panic Room is a good film about a bad situation.

Panic Room

Meg and Sarah hideout in their panic room

8 thoughts on “The Safest Room in the House

  1. They aired this one quite a bit on Cinemax, HBO, and Showtime back in my late High School period; wish I had checked it out then as you’ve made it sound quite thrilling and entertaining. Gotta wait now to see who airs it again, but it’ll be worth the wait. Wish they had teamed up Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart more too.

    Liked by 1 person

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