Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
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Lordy, still got the jitters! Do you live in a big house? Are you paranoid? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you're in trouble. If you didn't, well then, have a seat.
I haven't seen suspense this good since who knows when. I was right on the edge of the seat for literally all but the first five or ten minutes. Panic Room wastes no time getting things started, and when it starts, it doesn't stop. I'd say it did a great job living up to its previews.
Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is on her way out of a divorce, and with her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart), she is moving into a new place in Manhattan. I'm talkin' about a big old place here, four floors, a gazillion bedrooms and all. And then, of course, a panic room. It is a small steel-braced chamber hidden just behind the mirror in the master bedroom.
So no sooner do they get to sleep on that first night (You know, that godawful night that everything is still in shambles and you know you got so much cleaning to do the next day) than do three guys show up, find their way inside the house, and start talkin' away. There's something insanely funny about listening to these guys try to whisper while they're so ticked off.
But anyway, eventually, you find out that one of the guys used to live in this place, and that he has $3,000,000 stashed away... in the panic room. And where do you think Meg & Sarah are headed when they finally realize there are strangers in their house? The panic room.
I know what you're thinking. How can there be suspense with no actual contact or communication in any way between the intruders and the ladies? Well, they were pretty creative about that. The panic room is decked out with a 12-screen display that shows what's going on in the house. Then it is equipped with a paging device. So basically, Meg & Sarah can see the intruders, but they can't hear them. The intruders, on the other hand, can hear Meg and Sarah when they make a page, but they can't see them.
What really keeps this movie interesting is that it almost all takes place inside that one house. It is not bogged down with subplots; the whole thing is just about a riveting series of attempts made by the two ladies to contact someone from where they are, and then the attempts of the intruders to get into that room! It's pretty much standard fare; phone lines, air vents, psychology, you know.
Some of the sweeping camera angles were really neat. It would weave through staircase railings, in and out of a keyhole, and through the handle of a coffee pot. Most of that only happens in the first half hour or so, but it's still a nice way to make the audience feel "lost" in the house, as anyone without a photographic memory might be.
Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart are terrific together; I mean, we already know Jodie Foster will knock 'em dead, but it's Kristen that really steals the show. She and her "mother" are going through that typical stage that a mother and daughter go through, especially after divorce. I think the following snippet pretty much sums it up...
Meg: "It's sickening how much I love you."
Sarah: "Tell me about it."
The three guys who break into the house, they were just ticked off all the time. I couldn't help but wonder if their acting was that good or if they were really just anxious to get to the next scene and using that frustration to play the parts. Raoul (whom apparently was played by Dwight Yoakam, but that guy looked way too fat in the face to really be Dwight) was pretty much a dick, but don't worry, he'll get a sledgehammer to the shoulder. Not kidding, this movie has got some pretty violent stuff. The other guy, Junior (Jared Leto) was actually pretty funny. He looked like a white guy with Snoop Doggy Dogg's hair. In one scene, his arm catches fire and it looked like something right out of Home Alone.
The third guy, Burnham (Forest Whitaker sans 30 or 40 pounds) was kind of like the "nice guy" of the bunch, with a soft spot for kids and his own little story about just why he's doing what he's doing.
When the screen goes black at the end, it stays pitch black for about 10 seconds, at least. Then, another short scene follows before finally it's over. I was kind of disappointed that it didn't at least answer what happened to two particular characters (and if you see it, you'll probably know exactly which two I refer to). But, on the other hand, I guess it's kind of obvious where they ended up.
Panic Room is definitely one of the better movies of the first quarter. Let's see how spring goes!
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Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older