A mother and daughter hole up in an impenetrable ‘panic room’ after three strange men invade their Manhattan home looking for a hidden fortune. Jodie Foster stars in this claustrophobic thriller from director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club), with a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart playing the role of her teen daughter. The bad guys are played by Jared Leto, Forest Whitaker, and Dwight Yoakam — a trio who end up fighting themselves as much as they fight to get into the eponymous confine.
Panic Room moves at a brisk pace, taking place in seemingly ‘real time’ over the course of one night. Foster and Stewart are given better roles than stereotypical damsels in distress. Screenwriter David Koepp (The Paper, Death Becomes Her) keeps them reasonably level-headed throughout their ordeal. At times, the daughter even calms the mother. The same can’t be said for the villainous roles, however. The movie deflates a little whenever Leto, Whitaker, and Yoakam take over the screen, with Leto playing a particularly annoying brand of hackneyed baddie.
Fans of Fincher’s other, more provocative work may feel unsatisfied by what’s really just a straight-forward genre movie. Some of his stylistic flourishes, including a handful of micro-photographic closeups and zooms, feel forced and unnecessary. But these gripes don’t hamper an otherwise adequate popcorn thriller. With Ann Magnuson.