Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
A friend of mine who I trust wrote me yesterday to strongly encourage me to go to see PANIC ROOM before writing it off, no matter what I thought about the script. He swears to me that the film is a visual masterpiece, and that the sheer craftsmanship of the thing more than makes up for Koepp's pedestrian screenplay. The reviews coming in seem strong, too, a marked change from the early screening reaction. I love Fincher, and would love to see this turn out as another worthy addition to his filmography. Based on everything I've heard, I plan to see the movie on opening weekend with my mind open, ready to be entertained. Right now, here's a couple of quick glimpses at the film.
This first one is from the FilmHobbit:
Dropped this to Harry, figured I ought to drop it to you as well. Caught as screening of The Panic Room here in Dallas last night, here's the skinny:
A lot of people don't like Home Alone. They dismiss it as mindless prattle catering only to the unwashed masses. Personally, I'm a fan, and would be even more so if not for that damned annoying kid. But at last, David Fincher has a solution to the Macaulay Culkin factor and her name is Jodie Foster.
Foster stars in the latest Fincher directed thriller, The Panic Room as Meg Altman. Recently divorced, Meg and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart), have taken her ex's fortune and bought a lavish old brownstone near Manhattan. Built by an eccentric millionaire, the home comes complete with hard wood floors, vaulted ceilings, state of the art security systems, and a panic room. An eccentric bit of protection, a panic room is a security room, designed as a last ditch-hiding place in case of home invasion. On their first night in the house, Meg and Sarah put it to the test, when thieves break in to steal a fortune hidden in the house by the previous owner.
Noticing any Home Alone similarities? If only Kevin had had a panic room. All he had was a bag of tricks… though Meg has plenty of her own. In true Home Alone fashion, robbers are bonked, burned, shot, and crushed in Meg's desperate defense of her house. True, this is by no means cartoon violence, but the similarities are unavoidable. There are even one or two Joe Pesci references.
Perhaps Fincher is just a Culkin fan. Don't let his obsession with Michael Jackson's boy-toy distract you from the fine work he's done here. Despite being oddly reminiscent of an adult, R rated version of Home Alone, The Panic Room is actually a gripping and skillfully constructed thriller. Here is a man not afraid to put his camera to use, dipping and diving and fading through walls to sharply careen us between villain and heroine in a breathtaking display of editing, angle, and effects.
Jodie Foster too, is quite admirable in her portrayal of a mother backed quite literally against a wall. The rapport between she in her daughter is believably low key and develops them strongly. Her reaction to danger is quick and intense, making it easy to buy into her peril. However, somewhere along the way someone decided it might be a good idea to make her claustrophobic. Exploring how a claustrophobic deals with being confined in a small space like that by choice and necessity might have added another level of tension to the film. Yet somewhere along the way, after bothering to tell us about Meg's mental handicap, Fincher forgets to explore it. Maybe he decided the film didn't need it. I actually might agree. But then why bother pointing it out to begin with? Despite breaking into hysterics after ten seconds of confinement earlier in the film, when danger rears its ugly head, her fear is only given a passing fancy.
Inconsistent character flaws aside, The Panic Room is a successfully intense and engaging thriller. Though I still maintain that Fincher or writer David Koepp must have in SOME way been inspired by Home Alone, don't let that fool you into judging this some silly Acme anvil-fest. The panic and terror of the characters is palatable. The suspense unbearable. Beautifully scored by Howard Shore's haunting melodies, and admirably filmed and acted on all counts, Panic Room is at least more than worthy of the name THRILLER.
Find this and more over with us at http://www.filmhobbit.com
The Film Hobbit
And now here's the SuperFett with his view:
Every film has a gimmick. It's almost a necessity in today's Hollywood marketplace that any new film have something that gives it that "edge" that justifies the millions of dollars that went into its production. Usually, that gimmick appeals to the more prurient side of moviegoing audiences, whether by showcasing the beautiful people of Hollywood ("America's Sweethearts", "Black Hawk Down") or by pushing the boundaries of what is considered decent and acceptable in modern cinema ("Hannibal", "American Pie"). More often than not, the chosen gimmick steals the thunder of whatever substance would have otherwise driven the film, but "Panic Room" rises above that tendency and becomes a thrilling, compelling film in spite of a deceptively shallow premise.
The main plot of the film was laid bare in its first trailer: a woman and her daughter purchase a lavish home in which a panic room was created by its previous owner. In a rare sequence of valuable exposition, the concept of the panic room is explained by the realtor. "It's called a panic room....it is designed for one purpose: to keep people out."
By revealing this pivotal plot point at the outset, director David Fincher ("Fight Club", "Seven") issues a challenge to the viewer, as if to say, "here's the big peculiarity of this film...if that's all you were interested in, don't bother staying." And by doing so, he frees the audience to enjoy how this interesting rarity is used as both a defensive and offensive weapon against three errant intruders.
This is first and foremost a plot-driven movie, but that is by no means a weakness. The main premise is established in the first ten minutes of the film, and we are knee-deep in action within the first twenty. Character development is present throughout, but the cues are so subtle that they almost feel like an afterthought--a refreshing change from the "this is why I'm doing the things I do" exposition that plagues most big-budget productions. The character's relationships are firmly established by the film's conclusion without hitting the viewer over the head, and they supplement the film rather than serving as a crucial part.
It was my suspicion as this film began to take shape that the events which unfold could just as easily be told onstage. For the most part, that's true, but there is enough movie magic in this film to make it a singular cinematic experience. For one thing, just as he did in "Fight Club", Fincher uses CG camerawork in many instances to show us the insides of keyholes and the passage of gas through ductwork in ways that traditional camera equipment simply cannot. These moments are stylistically engaging without jarring the viewer, which is a difficult balance to strike when combining CGI with processed film.
Fincher also makes use of the entire house during the mini-siege, and he incorporates the panic room instead of focusing on it. This allows for the actors to use a full range of motion and the audience is given additional perspective through the eyes of securicams that are monitored from within the panic room. With all this space to work with (4200 sq. ft.), Fincher is able to orchestrate a wide series of events that twist and turn, gripping the viewer and creating suspense without winding to an overly-contrived finish.
In the end, "Panic Room" succeeds at what it aims to do; it keeps the viewer engaged with a lean, carefully-constructed teeth-grinder, free of excess. Its gimmickry is only superficial, and beneath the surface lies a gripping, minimalist action-drama that will hopefully set a new standard for action films to come.
Thanks, guys. I know there's a lot of readers who are looking forward to this one, and I'm sure you just made it that much more difficult for them to wait.