David Fincher, the director of Fight Club, Seven, and The Game, is a master of adrenaline-fueled psychological tension. Visceral macho thrills that leave you with something to think about are the hallmark of his sharp, smart pop. Panic Room is Fincher's latest. Rather impressively, the whole affair is staged on a single set over the course of one night.
Recent divorcee Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) moves into a luxury Manhattan townhouse with her teen daughter (Kristen Stewart). The Altman's jaw-dropping real estate even includes a “panic room” fortified against intruders, with surveillance cameras, water supplies, and the like. On their first evening in the home, a trio of burglars send mother and daughter fleeing there. Catch is, the thieves want loot stored in the panic room, and the intriguingly reflective one (played by Forest Whitaker) knows more about panic room construction than the women barred up inside it.
While the performances are good, they are far from surprising: Foster acts out her steely cat-and-mouse resourcefulness, Whitaker takes on his trademark pensiveness, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam play his short-tempered, psychotic buddies. The film however, is a pleasure to watch. The scenario is elegant. Fincher's direction and cinematographic eye bring tensioned poise to the proceedings. Panic Room is an intelligent thriller that plays by the rules then surpasses them with its sense of craft.