"The first rule of Panic Room is don't talk about Panic
Room. The second rule of Panic Room is don't talk about Panic Room." In
two lines, which differ only subtly from one another, Forest Whitaker
sets a tone of casual menace that makes David Fincher's extraordinary
new film Panic Room the best movie since Fincher's own
Club. I would like to point out that I won't be talking
about Panic Room. I'll be writing about it :-).
I should start with something we writers call full
exposure, which we do whenever we have a kind of conflict of interests
that the readers should know about, and especially if we are naked at
the time. There can be a variety of reasons. I actually went to see
Panic Room because in the previews, I saw big buttery heaps of Ian
Buchanan, the brilliant and handsome actor who played Duke on General
Hospital, probably my favorite show, even after Luke murdered Laura
with a sling blade. But it turns out, he's only in the movie for like
five minutes, and he is not a very nice person. So I have kind of a
grudge against the movie.
Still, Panic Room is a marvelous new thriller.
It's about a young woman and her daughter who move into an expensive
house in New York and, as is customary, are visited by murderous thieves
on their first night there. It marks Fincher's return to the genre of
edgy urban thriller, which he has returned to several other times, like
in The Game and Seven Sins for Seven Brothers, his edgy
urban thriller/musical, sort of like Cop Rock, except with more
beheadings. The new film works for many reasons, which I will come to in
But first, Panic Room is one of those movies that
is as famous for what went on behind the scenes as for what is on the
screen. As many know, Fincher had wanted to have the part of Foster's
daughter played by someone who looked a lot like her, so he had
initially relied on computer special effects, using a digitized version
of Foster herself, in the role that initially charmed America. That was
when she played a young prostitute who convinced Robert DeNiro to grow a
mohawk and to kill a pimp (Peter Boyle) in Martin Shortsese's movie
Taxi Driver. The Jodie-Foster-then-and-now version of Panic Room
might ultimately be available on DVD; it's hard to know. But what
we do know is that shortly after seeing the Hollywood premiere, a crazed
Robert DeNiro strolled onto the set of Everybody Loves Raymond
and shot Peter Boyle four times, seriously wounding him. Fincher
immediately went back to the drawing board and reshot scenes of Panic
Room with America's favorite young actor, who he convinced to get a
sex change operation. As a result, Haley Mills Osment gives the best
performance of his/her life.
And he does this in the service of a great cause.
Panic Room has a fiendishly complex plot. Foster and Osment have
just moved into the house, and have to lock themselves into the "Panic
Room" because thieves break in, though – in a really crazy plot twist –
the thieves actually don't want Foster's unpacked boxes, but rather
something in the Panic Room!!! This is the sort of thing that used to
happen in O. Henry stories, like, what I really wanted for Christmas was
a Panic Room, but what she (my imaginary girlfriend) really wants is
something inside the Panic Room, so we're both s*** out of luck! Merry
Christmas, anyway. Really, Christmas isn't about who gets the Panic
Room, but actually about if we love each other. Some people tell me that
my problem is that I love just a little too much. And too often!
There are lots of plot details that kind of flesh things
out, though. For one, we don't really know what the thieves are looking
for unless we were in the theater for the first ten minutes, when the
realtors explained why it might not be such a hot idea to move into the
house. Also, the thieves aren't what you would call a tight-knit bunch.
One of them is black (Forest Whitaker), and the other two are white
(Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam). And Yoakam's name is Raoul, which makes
us wonder if he really is white after all. Does Raoul have something to
hide? If not, why wear the mask?
Also, the Panic Room isn't as much fun to hang around in
as you might think. The thieves try to figure out ways to get Foster and
Osment out of the Panic Room, like sending them email messages that say
"Get out of the Panic Room or we will kill you, and add 2 inches to your
penis, guaranteed!" Foster is about to go to Columbia as a graduate
student, and is too smart to fall for that!!! Oh, and there is a termite
But what makes the movie isn't just the plot. The acting
is great. Two-time Oscar winner (for
and Maverick) Jodie Foster is mesmerizing as the frightened mom.
Forest Whitaker gives his best performance since he won the Cannes Film
Festival Award for Species, as famous jazzman Charlie "Species"
Parker, who saved the world and changed music forever by beating to
death an alien with an alto saxophone.
Most important, this is a great film about family
values. As I have long argued, Jesus doesn't want single-parent
families, which are an abomination. This movie is a perfect example. If
there were a man like me with a shotgun or an AK-47 at the door, do you
think robbers would try any funny business? Your husband break up with
you to have sex with a younger woman? Well, lose some weight, make
yourself presentable, and find a man to take care of you! Don't just
rent an apartment or buy a house like, no problem, I can live my own
life. What about the kids? They need a father figure!!!
In fact, my only other complaint about Panic Room
is that Jodie Foster isn't as strict on family values in real life as
she is in the movie. I heard she just got pregnant again -- and she's
not even married!!! She can have any man she wants! Why doesn't she just
settle down with one who can take care of her? Like Tom Cruise! I heard
he's single, and he's also a two-time Oscar winner! Imagine the kind of
kids they'd have!!!
Anyway, in spite of these problems, Panic Room is
still the most exciting thriller in decades. I predict that next March,
all the security in the world won't keep Fincher, Foster, and Whitaker
away from their well-deserved Oscars, and Osment from becoming the first
transsexual child star to win both Best Supporting Actor and Best
On a scale of four or five stars, I give Panic Room
Earlier positive movie reviews can be found at