|cast: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam
director: David Fincher
112 minutes (R) 2002
This is a wonderfully taut suspense thriller from the pen of David Koepp and the eye of David Fincher. Anyone who has seen a Fincher film (Fight Club and Seven are probably the best known) knows that he is very creative with his camera. He shows off a few times here with POV shots through a keyhole, through a staircase banister, and over a kitchen counter, but mostly lets the story alone.
Jodie Foster stars as a new divorcee who, with her androgynous teenage daughter (Kristen Stewart), moves into a tremendous Manhattan apartment which includes a steel room with surveillance cameras and emergency supplies – a ‘panic room’ into which the occupant can escape in times of invasion.
With this set-up there has to be a payoff and before the first night in their new home is over, three men (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam – playing yet another psycho) break in searching for money hidden there by the previous occupant. Jodie and daughter quickly rush inside the room and wait for the burglars to take what they want and leave. But guess where the money is?
The scene is set early, the break-in occurring about 15 minutes into the film. Fincher carries the tension throughout the film, Koepp’s script constantly wavering the balance between criminals and captives. The men will get the upper hand, then the women get the upper hand, and one really doesn’t know what is going to happen next. There is also a fair amount of humour in watching the three men, who have very different personalities, bicker among themselves as to the correct plan of action.
My only complaint is with the ending, which didn’t really wrap up any of the questions posed throughout the action. And the final scene seemed tacked on at the last minute. All in all, however, this is a high quality thriller with lots of suspense and intelligence. Fincher has done it again, and this time without all the pretence.