A top-notch thriller, Panic Room follows recent divorcée Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) as she and her teenage daughter (Kristen Stewart’s Sarah) move into an incredibly expensive (and expansive) New York City brownstone – where, on their first night living there, the pair are forced to hide out in the title location after a trio of criminals (Forest Whitaker’s Burnham, Jared Leto’s Junior, and Dwight Yoakam’s Raoul) break in. Panic Room, which kicks off with an indelible, near iconic opening credits sequence, effectively establishes the two central characters and the geography of their spacious new home, as filmmaker David Fincher does an absolutely superb job of laying the groundwork for the suspenseful narrative that inevitably ensues – with David Koepp’s screenplay effectively punctuating the proceedings with welcome bursts of levity (eg the oddball chemistry between the three intruders). The film’s engrossing atmosphere is heightened on an ongoing basis by Fincher’s propensity for stylishly tense interludes, with, especially, Meg and Sarah’s initial efforts at dashing into the panic room before the villains grab them setting an exceedingly high bar for everything that’s to follow. (It’s worth noting, though, that the movie does subsequently boast a handful of equally impressive set pieces, including a climactic stretch that ensures the whole thing ends on a viscerally exciting note.) And while the film’s slightly overlong running time does result in a few lulls within its midsection, Panic Room, bolstered by uniformly strong performances and Fincher’s typically eye-popping visuals, ultimately comes off as a spellbinding home-invasion chiller that remains a cut above its similarly-themed brethren.
***1/2 out of ****