PANIC ROOM

Director:  David Fincher

Starring:  Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto

A young woman and her daughter are besieged by crooks searching for hidden bounty.

David Fincher's tightly-wound 2002 thriller was something of a disappointment to his growing legion of fans, but judged by anyone else's standards Panic Room  is an accomplished, slick, nerve-wrenching movie that's certain to become a minor classic.

The film stars Jodie Foster as Meg Altman, a recently-divorced young woman who moves into a spacious New York "townstone" apartment with her 12 year-old daughter, Sarah, as a result of the divorce from her wealthy husband. Almost immediately their home is invaded by three crooks, searching for a fortune that they believe was hidden by the previous occupant. Meg and Sarah take refuge in a specially-constructed impregnable chamber (the Panic Room of the title), not knowing that what the crooks are looking for is inside the room with them!

The film offers little that's new, and a basic, well-worn plot, but Fincher's directorial flourishes; a nice character arc that takes Foster's character from deflated divorcee to Die Hard-style action hero; and excellent performances from all concerned give the film weight and resonance.

Columbia's disc serves the film extremely well. It's a movie that must have presented the film's cinematographers, Conrad W. Hall (stepping up a rung after second unit responsibility on films like  Sleepy Hollow and Alien Resurrection) and Darius Khondji (In Dreams and Fincher's Director of Photography on Se7en) with a few problems. Most of the film takes place in low-light conditions, giving much of the film a sickly lemon tint, and this has been captured remarkably well on the disc, which has a sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The Region 1 disc is touted as a Superbit release, but has the same features as the Region 2 version, and there's no reason to think that the NTSC version will be any better than the UK's "ordinary" PAL disc.

The film's audio mix is quite excellent. Fincher has a remarkable skill for creating ambience. A scene at the beginning of Se7en, where Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) prepares for his working day as noise from adjacent flats filters through the walls, for example, is as memorable a soundscape as any I've heard. Panic Room has typically elaborate sound design (credited to Fincher regular Ren Klyce), but it rarely draws attention to itself, choosing instead, like Howard Shore's churning score, to remain a brooding background presence. The disc offers a choice of audio formats: a 5.1 Dolby Digital track (at 448kbps) and a dts track (at 754kbps). The dts mix has a spaciousness that's less obvious on the Dolby track, making it the preferable choice, but both presentations are first class. 

Those expecting the lavish extras afforded to Se7en and Fight Club will have to be patient, for the only bonus materials on offer here are elaborate animated menus (very nice, but excessive, considering that the disc is practically bereft of content), a teaser trailer  (which includes material either specially-shot, or not in the finished film) and a handful of filmographies. It's highly likely that a two-disc Special Edition disc will be forthcoming, given Columbia's annoying "buy it at least twice" marketing strategy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unless explicitly stated, DVD screen captures used in the reviews are for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to be accurate representations of the DVD image.   While screen captures are generally in their correct aspect ratio, there will often have been changes made to the resolution, contrast, hue and sharpness, to optimise them for web display.

Site content copyright J.A.Knott - 2002-2004