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PANIC ROOM (2002)

Director: David Fincher (Fight Club [1999], The Game [1997], Se7en[1995])

Screenplay: David Koepp (War of the Worlds [2005]; Spiderman [2002])

Director of Photography: Conrad W. Hall (Son of Conrad L. Hall--Legend)

Cast: Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakum, Jared Leto, Kristen Stewart.

Running Length: Color; approx 112 minutes
MPAA Classification: R

Genre: Drama / Thriller / Crime

Reviewed by Jim Lewis

I like smart, action films, and this one survives the Monday morning search for overlooked solutions. I hate stupidity by characters--Like the original Stepford Wives--mom tries to rescue her two sons--who are in no danger. PANIC ROOM has no such shortcoming.

Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) has just separated from her husband. She and young daughter Sara (Kristen Stewart) move into a New York City home. It includes a feature put in by the last owner, a "panic room," a steel and concrete, telephonically and video surveillance wired, impregnable room, in the event of a home invasion. The daughter thinks the special room is very cool.

On their first night staying there, believing it is still empty, a trio of burglars enters in search of several million dollars believed hidden in a safe by the deceased, rich, former owner. The burglars have expected to hammer and drill without interruption, and at least one of them thought there would only be two in on the crime. But a third has come along, wearing a ski mask. No special intuition says the new guy will be trouble.

While the bad guys decide how to handle the two female wrinkles in their plan, the sleeping Jodie Foster wakes, rousts her daughter and they escape into the new special room.

I say, let them have whatever they want and leave. Hey! Jodie Foster says over the intercom, "Take whatever you want and GET OUT!" Smart woman, I say. But the fly in the ointment...where is the money supposed to be? In the panic room. In short order, the chess game is in check. Just how impenetrable is this room? How dedicated are these guys? They have TOOLS! How will they resolve this?

Everyone is thinking in this movie, good guys and bad. Most are resourceful. The cast is excellent. They’ve created smart, believable characters. Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakum particularly, keep us on the edge of our seats. Notice the credits above for the Director David Fincher and Screenwriter David Koepp. These heavyweights are no strangers, either, to quality action and suspense.

If this type of movie is your cup of tea, I say settle in for a watch. I even enjoyed viewing number two, discovering no plot holes until the very end, and I forgave it.

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