Following the success of 1999’s Fight Club, David Fincher made what, on the surface, looks like a 180-degree turn with his fifth feature, 2002’s Panic Room. But while a quiet, tightly wound suspense film centered on two women hiding in their own home from intruders at first seems wildly different from a film in which crazy dudes beat each other to a pulp for funsies, both movies deal with the themes of entrapment, escape, and mortality, though Panic Room wears them all much closer to the surface. Centering on one of Jodie Foster’s best performances, Panic Room follows a divorcée (Foster) and her daughter (an 11-year-old, pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart, in a performance that makes her recent resurgence as a respected actor seem much less surprising) as they move into a fancy New York brownstone, one that comes complete with a steel-walled “panic room” to protect its residents from intruders. Before you can say, “Well, that’s convenient,” three burglars (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, and Jared Leto) break into the building, looking for a fortune in bearer bonds left behind by the home’s previous owner. One problem: The bonds are in the panic room. From that juicy starting point, David Koepp’s screenplay keeps piling on the twists, with Fincher keeping things cool and stylish inside this narrative pressure cooker. Though it’s not often the first film brought up when discussing Fincher’s canon, it fits quite neatly with the rest of his films, and is a masterful white-knuckler to boot. It airs at 3:45 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. on Sundance.
March 12, 2015 Cable Pick Of The Day