Spoilers will hide in a different house.

This one is one of David Fincher‘s finest, yet very underrated features. One small detail I’ve always loved is the opening credits. They showcase a bunch of building façades from New York City with the credits superimposed in 3D. Enjoy the view while you can. Most of the film will take place indoors in what seems to be the most expensive townhouse/brownstone in Manhattan. If home invasion is your kind of thriller, this movie should hit all the right buttons.

(Credit: Columbia Pictures)

Panic Room (2002) is directed by David Fincher based on the screenplay by David Koepp. Recently divorced, Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kirsten Stewart) have just scored the best place that money can afford. Put in the market after its very wealthy homeowner just passed away, it’s very much a steal. The place comes with an unusual perk: a panic room, a mini-bunker built for protection against home invasion. It’s the embodiment of Chekhov’s gun.

Soon enough, the home is invaded by three intruders. Burnham (Forest Whitaker), the most down-to-earth one; Junior (Jared Leto), the inexperienced rookie; and the masked Raoul (Dwight Yoakam), who is the most violent of the three. Junior is the ringleader with the insider information of what they’re looking for, but Burnham is the expert and the more patient planner. Raoul is a wildcard with no morals. The panic room comes into play right away, but since Meg never hooked up the external phone line they can’t contact the police. And so begins a tense game of cat and mouse between Meg and Sarah and the three thieves.

The film does a great job at maintaining the threat level throughout. The thieves are not leaving. They want something, and what they want is inside the room Meg and Sarah are in. The cinematography gets particularly creative as it takes us from floor to floor and from one side of the house to the other. Jodie Foster is at her peak performance here in a role that is both mentally and physically exhausting. Forest Whitaker is the only bright bulb in the bunch, as the conflicted criminal that would rather do no harm. Even young Kirsten Stewart gets her chance to steal the spotlight as her character proves herself as smart (if not smarter) than her mother.

I would say even Jared Lato and Dwight Yoakam have their moments. Leto is pretty much playing the loose cannon, self-entitled prick (insert cheap shot here). Dwight Yoakam is mostly known for his career as a country singer. Nevertheless, he delivers a rather decent performance as a subtle but violent psychopath that has no qualms about killing children. The fact that he’s the one the audience will hate most of all does earn him props for his commitment to the role.

Strongly recommended. This is a thriller for all audiences. It does contain some violent scenes that will probably be considered tame nowadays. The cinematography is amazing including some through-the-needle shots that still hold up. Superbly casted and filled with some great performances, I feel it’s an underrated gem from its time. Very much worth a watch if not more.

That will do for now.